An Islamabad sessions court stated on Tuesday that charges against PTI chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan in the Toshakhana reference will be framed on February 7.
The reference alleging that Imran had not shared details of the gifts he retained from the Toshaskhana and proceeds from their reported sales was filed by lawmakers from the ruling coalition last year. On October 21, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had concluded that the former premier had indeed made “false statements and incorrect declarations” regarding the gifts.
The Toshakhana is a department under the Cabinet Division that stores gifts given to rulers and government officials by heads of other governments and foreign dignitaries. According to Toshakhana rules, gifts/presents and other such materials received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division.
The watchdog’s order had said Imran stood disqualified under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution.
Subsequently, the ECP had approached the Islamabad sessions court with a copy of the reference, seeking proceedings against Imran under criminal law for allegedly misleading officials about the gifts he received from foreign dignitaries during his tenure as the prime minister.
At the previous hearing, the court had reserved its judgement on ECP’s petition.
On Tuesday morning, Additional Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal pronounced the verdict with PTI lawyer Ali Bukhari and ECP counsel Advocate Saad Hasan in attendance.
Meanwhile, the PTI chief — who is recuperating after sustaining a gunshot wound following an assassination bid during a rally on Nov 3 — sought exemption from today’s hearing.
At the onset of the hearing today, the court asked Bukhari where Imran’s power of attorney was. Here, ECP’s counsel Hasan said that the power of attorney can not be presented until “Imran Khan comes to court himself.”
However, the PTI contended that Imran’s medical certificate had been submitted in court. “Give me five minutes, Barrister Gohar is just about to reach [the court],” he said.
The judge then instructed Bukhari to submit Imran’s power of attorney today.
At one point during the hearing, an argument erupted between the lawyers of the PTI and ECP after which Advocate Hasan requested the court to issue arrest warrants for the former premier.
Subsequently, Judge Iqbal directed Imran to submit surety bonds worth Rs20,000 and instructed him to ensure in-person attendance in court at the next hearing.
Imran’s interim bail extended in prohibited funding case
Separately, a banking court in Islamabad extended Imran’s interim bail in the prohibited funding case till Feb 15 and instructed him to appear in-person at the next hearing.
“If Imran doesn’t appear in court on Feb 15, his bail will be rejected,” the judge warned.
Last year, the ECP had issued its verdict in the prohibited funding case — previously referred to as the foreign funding case — against the PTI, which stated that the party did indeed receive prohibited funding.
In the verdict, the commission noted that the party “knowingly and willfully” received funding from Wootton Cricket Limited, operated by business tycoon Arif Naqvi. The party was a “willing recipient” of prohibited money of $2,121,500, it said.
The ECP said that the party “knowingly and willfully” also received donations from Bristol Engineering Services (a UAE-based company), E-Planet Trustees (a Cayman Islands private registered company), SS Marketing Manchester (a UK-based private company), PTI USA LLC-6160 and PTI USA LLC-5975 which were “hit by prohibition and in violation of Pakistani laws”.
Subsequently, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had registered a case naming Imran, Sardar Azhar Tariq Khan, Saifullah Khan Nyazee, Syed Yunus Ali Raza, Aamer Mehmood Kiani, Tariq Rahim Sheikh, Tariq Shafi, Faisal Maqbool Shaikh, Hamid Zaman and Manzoor Ahmad Chaudhary as signatories/beneficiaries of the PTI account in question.
Earlier, the court had given the former premier a last chance to appear in person.
During the hearing today, PTI’s Advocate Salman Safdar requested to the court to exempt Imran from attending the hearing on medical grounds.
He said that the PTI chief received multiple bullet wounds and “is unable to move”.
“Imran has to take records from a number of banks in the funding case,” he argued, adding that his client had requested the FIR conduct the investigation at the PTI chief’s Zaman Park residence in Lahore.
“If the FIA doesn’t want to come, it can give us a questionnaire […] why are they ignoring genuine facts,” Advocate Safdar contended.
For his part, Special Prosecutor Rizwan Abbasi said that the law should be equal for everyone. “If a poor man doesn’t appear in court his bail is rejected. Why is a former prime minister being given extensions?”
He added that the FIA had also told Imran to become a part of the investigation.
After listening to arguments from both sides, the court extended Imran’s interim bail till Feb 15. The judge also rejected Imran’s request for a virtual hearing and instructed him to appear in person.
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