An Islamabad sessions court on Tuesday accepted PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s request for temporary exemption from appearing in court over medical grounds, hence deferring his indictment in the Toshakhana reference.

The court in its last hearing on January 31 had announced that charges against the PTI chief — who is recuperating after sustaining a gunshot wound following an assassination bid during a rally on Nov 3 — in the reference on Feb 7 (today).

The reference, which alleges that Imran had not shared details of the gifts he retained from the Toshaskhana (during his time as the prime minister) 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.

Ali Bukhari and Gohar Ali Khan represented the PTI chief at the hearing today while the ECP was represented by Saad Hasan.

The proceedings were conducted by Additional Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal.

At the outset of the hearing, the judge inquired whether the former premier had submitted surety bonds worth Rs20,000 as directed by the court earlier. His counsel replied in the affirmative.

To a plea submitted by the PTI chief’s counsels seeking his exemption from personal appearance today, the judge asked how could charges be framed if the former premier continued to seek exemptions.

Imran’s counsels told the court that he had not been provided certified documents and copies related to the prosecution’s allegations against their client. “The copies should never be in a form of WhatsApp screenshots,” he added.

However, the ECP lawyer said the copies had already been provided to the defendant.

The judge directed the commission to provide the PTI counsels with all certified copies related to the case. The ECP’s legal team acknowledged the directions.

“Tell me a date when Imran Khan will come to the court,” the judge said addressing Imran’s lawyers.

According to ex-PM’s counsel Bukhari, “If Imran’s health permits, he will come. He is following the instructions of doctors.”

At one point in the hearing, pointed remarks were exchanged when the ECP counsel remarked that Imran’s legal team brought with it Mirasi (broken records).

The PTI’s lawyer responded to the jibe, saying ECP counsels were “munshis” (clerks).

The court intervened to prevent the two sides from hurling further barbs at each other.

After hearing arguments, the court accepted the PTI chief’s plea for exemption from appearing in person, and asked the electoral body to provide their counterparts with certified documents.

The next date of the hearing will be announced after the ECP complies with the directives of the court.

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