Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in a bid to suspend the trial court’s verdict in the Toshakhana case, with the aim of overturning his disqualification by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
In the filed petition, Imran Khan’s legal representative argued that they had initially requested the IHC to suspend the trial court’s verdict in the Toshakhana case. However, it was noted that in its decision dated August 28, the IHC had only suspended the sentence without overturning his conviction.
The plea emphasizes the broad and undefined inherent powers of the High Court, stating that the High Court can issue orders to ensure substantial justice. It asserts that the omission to record the contentions of the applicant’s counsel regarding the suspension of the impugned order dated August 5, 2023, and the subsequent non-mention of the same in the order dated August 28, 2023, is a significant omission apparent in the order.
The petition further contends that Imran Khan’s “rights” have been severely prejudiced due to the non-suspension of the trial court’s verdict, as the ECP had barred him from contesting elections based on the impugned order.
However, the petition argues that the disqualification order by the ECP was issued hastily, even though the conviction had not attained finality. It suggests that there is animosity against Imran Khan, extending beyond his conviction and disqualification, including attempts to remove him from the leadership of the party and take away its symbol, thus preventing his participation in general elections.
The petition appeals to the court to suspend the verdict in the “interest of justice.”
In August this year, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) disqualified PTI Chairman Imran Khan for a five-year period due to his conviction in the Toshakhana case. The ECP, in its notification, cited Mr. Khan’s conviction for corrupt practices under Section 167 of the Elections Act, 2017, resulting in a three-year sentence. As a result, he was disqualified under Article 63(1)(h) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, read with Section 232 of the Elections Act, 2017. Additionally, Khan was de-notified as the “returned candidate” from NA-45 Kurram-I.
However, during the same month, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended Khan’s sentence, though his conviction and disqualification remained in effect pending the court’s decision on the main appeal. The IHC’s short verdict also instructed authorities to grant bail to the PTI chief, but his release was delayed as he faced charges in the cipher case.
The Toshakhana, a Persian term for “treasure house,” was established in 1974 under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division. It stores valuable gifts presented to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats, and officials by foreign dignitaries and heads of other governments as goodwill gestures. The items include bulletproof cars, gold-plated souvenirs, valuable paintings, watches, ornaments, rugs, and swords. Under Toshakhana rules, government officials may retain low-value gifts, while they must pay a reduced fee to the government for extravagant items.
The case against Imran Khan began when allegations arose that he had acquired gifts received as prime minister at exceptionally low prices and subsequently sold them for significant profits. The allegations included the sale of watches, including Rolex timepieces and a “Master Graff limited edition” watch valued at 85 million Pakistani rupees ($385,000), in Dubai. A reference was submitted by National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf to the Election Commission for investigation.
In October 2022, the Election Commission found the former prime minister guilty of corrupt practices. The ECP maintained that Khan had made “false statements and incorrect declarations” about the gifts, disqualifying him under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution. Following this, the Election Commission filed a criminal case against the PTI chief for allegedly misleading the ECP regarding gifts from foreign dignitaries during his tenure.
Throughout the trial proceedings, Khan’s lawyers accused the presiding judge of bias based on his Facebook posts and requested the case’s transfer. On August 5, the trial court found Khan guilty of misdeclaring state gifts. However, on August 29, the Islamabad High Court suspended the trial court’s sentence in the case.
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