PTI Chairman Imran Khan, shortly after an Islamabad trial court declared him guilty of “corrupt practices” in the Toshakhana case and sentenced him to three years in prison, was arrested by Punjab police on Saturday afternoon from his Zaman Park residence in Lahore.
Lahore Police Chief Bilal Siddique Kamiana confirmed the arrest and told Reuters the former prime minister was being transferred to the capital.
Later, Punjab Inspector General Dr Usman Anwar told Dawn.com that Imran was being shifted to Attock jail.
The court sentenced Imran — who was absent from court — to three years of imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs100,000 on him while hearing the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) criminal complaint against the PTI chief for concealing details of Toshakhana gifts.
- Islamabad court rules Imran’s dishonesty has been “established beyond doubt”
- PTI chief’s lawyer deems verdict “a murder of justice”; party announces country-wide protests
- Imran urges supporters to continue peaceful protests; arrests reported from Lahore, Karachi and Shangla
- Imran Khan technically stands disqualified from holding any public office for five years under Article 63(1)(h) of the Constitution
“The court finds it’s more than convincing that the complainant (ECP) had provided confidence-inspiring, well-knitted and corroborated evidence, and so the charge against the accused has successfully been proven that the accused has committed offence of corrupt practices by making and publishing false statements/declaration in respect of assets acquired by way of gifts from Toshakhana and disposed of during years 2018-2019 and 2019-2020,” Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Humayun Dilawar said in a short order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com.
The judge said that Imran also provided an “incorrect declaration” in the Form-B — the statement of assets and liabilities — submitted to the ECP for the year 2020-2021.
“He has been found guilty of corrupt practices by hiding the benefits he accrued from the national exchequer wilfully and intentionally. He cheated while providing information of gifts he obtained from Toshakhana which later proved to be false and inaccurate.
“His dishonesty has been established beyond doubt,” the court order added.
It further said that the PTI chief was convicted under Section 174 (Offence of corrupt practices) of the Election Act and sentenced to three years in prison.
ADSJ Dilawar also directed that a copy of the order, along with the arrest warrant, should be sent to the Islamabad police chief for execution.
The arrest warrant, which has been seen by Dawn.com, authorised the Islamabad police chief to arrest Imran and send him to Central Prison Adiala, Rawalpindi, for “serving out his sentences”.
After today’s verdict, Imran technically stands disqualified from holding any public office for five years under Article 63(1)(h) of the Constitution.
The law states: “A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Parliament if he has been, on conviction for any offence involving moral turpitude, sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years, unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release.”
He, however, has the right to appeal the verdict.
During the hearing today — which commenced at 8:30am — the judge repeatedly expressed displeasure over the absence of Imran’s lawyers. He gave multiple chances to the defence counsel to appear in court but reserved the verdict at noon due to the lawyers’ continued absence.
Imran’s lawyer Khawaja Haris showed up at the court shortly after the verdict was reserved. But at 12:30pm, ASDJ Dilawar announced the reserved verdict and reports of Imran’s arrest surfaced roughly 29 minutes after.
Unlike previous instances, where Zaman Park was usually guarded by party supporters, Imran was taken into custody today without any major resistance. The PTI also confirmed this in a tweet, saying that the party chief didn’t resist the arrest.
It claimed that the Lahore police arrived at Imran’s residence to “kidnap” him even before the written verdict of the trial court was released. Talking about the case, it alleged that “every process from the beginning of the case to the trial and [Imran’s] abduction is illegal”.
In another tweet, the PTI alleged that the Punjab police “broke into” Zaman Park and “beat up” Imran’s security guards and house staff. “Even though Khan sahib expressed his willingness to go with the police, they still dragged him and covered his face with a cloth,” the party added.
A large contingent of police could also be seen taking the PTI chief to jail.
The PTI chairman’s arrest today comes approximately three months after his first arrest on May 9 when he was detained in Islamabad from the high court’s premises in the Al-Qadir Trust case.
Imran’s arrest that day had resulted in widespread violence and saw important military installations come under attack, on the basis of which the state had launched a severe crackdown against his party.
While Imran was released the next day, thousands of PTI workers and almost the entire top-tier leadership was rounded up.
What followed was a large number of party leaders holding press conferences, condemning the May 9 riots — some also called out Imran and his politics — and disassociating themselves with the PTI. The party’s dismantlement has continued since then, barring some senior PTI leaders, most of whom are still behind bars.
While the mass exodus as well as a near-complete blackout of Imran on local media has left the PTI’s future uncertain in the upcoming polls, it also gave birth to a new home for most PTI deserters, Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP), hosted by Jahangir Khan Tareen.
PTI chief asks supporters to continue peaceful protests
In a pre-recorded message shared on his Twitter a few hours after arrest, Imran said: “By the time this message reaches you, I will be in jail.”
“In the wake of my arrest,” the PTI chief said, “I want you to continue peaceful protests and not to sit quietly inside your houses.”
“My movement is not for myself, but for you, for the future of your children,” he stressed, recalling that Pakistan too was found on the concept of freedom.
“If you will not stand up for your rights, you will live a life that is of slaves and slaves have no life. Slaves are similar to how ants are — on the ground — they do not fly high.
“This is a battle for your rights and freedom … you have to continue peaceful protests until you get your right, which is seeing a government elected by you and not a qabza mafia,” Imran added.
PTI announces country-wide protests
In a handout issued after its emergency core committee meeting, the party said it discussed the future plan of action and legal measures to secure Imran’s release.
The party called for peaceful protests across the country within the ambit of the law and the Constitution and also appealed to the Supreme Court to hear its review petition — filed earlier in the day against the maintainability of the Toshakhana case.
The PTI said it had started acting on Imran’s instructions for its organisation and political plan of action, further adding that the entire nation had rejected the session court’s verdict.
The party also shared a video, saying its supporters had started gathering outside the Pakistan High Commission in London to protest Imran’s arrest.
Television footage showed PTI supporters, including lawyers, protesting Imran’s arrest outside his Zaman park residence in Lahore. Protesters also came out in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Bannu with party flags.
According to the spokesperson of the Lahore deputy inspector general of police (operations), 20 PTI supporters were arrested when they tried to protest outside Zaman Park. He said 48 more were arrested in Civil Lines.
There were reports of multiple arrests in Karachi as well. The PTI claimed that the senior vice president of the party’s Sindh chapter, Rizwan Khanzada, had been arrested in Karachi.
Meanwhile, Puran sub-divisional police officer Sher Hassan Khan confirmed to Dawn.com that PTI tehsil chairman Abdul Maula Khan was arrested by Shangla police during a protest in Aloch.
In KP’s Shangla, the district administration has placed a ban on the gathering of more than four persons to prevent a law and order situation in the district. It also barred “provocative social media posts” that may incite public to break the law and order and “contain disparaging remarks against state institutions”.
The notification added the directives would remain in place from Aug 5 to September 5.
A similar ban under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) was also imposed in Peshawar and notified by the city’s deputy commissioner (DC).
The notification issued by the DC’s office, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said any “unlawful or unauthorised gathering/ assembly of any nature may become a target of militants which could not only result in loss of precious lives and property but also endanger the peace and tranquillity of the district, and it has become imperative to take extraordinary measures in the greater public interest to prevent such breach of peace”.
It added that circumstances and “sufficient reasons” existed which warranted “immediate preventive measures” under Section 144 of the CrPC.
Hence, it said, a ban was being imposed on “any kind of unlawful and unauthorised gathering, rally, assembly, protest etc. of more than five people” in Peshawar.
The ban will remain in place for seven days starting today.
Haven’t seen this kind of injustice before: Imran’s lawyer
Following the verdict, Imran’s lawyer Barrister Gohar Khan expressed his disappointment and deemed it “a murder of justice”.
“I was very disappointed and disheartened,” he told Dawn.com. “Justice was murdered.
“We weren’t even given a chance. We weren’t even allowed to cross [question], to say anything in defence or conduct our arguments. I haven’t seen this kind of injustice before.”
Later, PTI lawyer Shoaib Shaheen said in a press conference that their witnesses were not allowed in the court.
Presenting witnesses was a fundamental right and the PTI was not given a “fair trial”, he decried.
“Justice is being bulldozed and buried,” the law yer said.
In a video message, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the public had found today’s verdict “against the formalities of justice”.
“Imran Khan’s fundamental right of fair trial was not provided,” he claimed and called on party supporters to continue efforts for the PTI chief’s release.
“We have to make both political and legal efforts, and move forward in a peaceful manner,” Qureshi said, urging supporter against taking the law in their hands.
PTI leader Asad Umar, who left his position as PTI genera secretary following May 9 riots but is still part of the party, said: “Today’s decision does not even meet the basic principle of law that the serving of justice should be seen.
“This decision will not stand in a higher court. And meaningful decisions about politicians are made in the hearts of the people, not in the courts,” he added.
PTI leader Asad Qaiser, who unlike many of his peers did not leave the PTI in the aftermath of the May 9 violence, termed the judgement a “biased decision by a biased judge that has no legal standing”.
He said the “pre-written judgment was delivered in haste without following any legal procedure”. He further said that the PTI and the Pakistani people “reject this biased decision” and vowed to approach every possible forum against it.
Former parliamentary secretary of law and ex-PTI leader Barrister Maleeka Bokhari said that “on the orders of [PML-N leader] Maryam Nawaz for a level playing field — to balance the scales — justice was killed today”.
Meanwhile, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, a long-time ally of Imran, expressed grief over the PTI chief’s arrest and hoped that the Supreme Court would provide him relief and justice.
SCBA expresses concern on judgement
Separately, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) expresses “serious reservations in relation to the legality” of today’s judgement leading to Imran’s arrest.
In a statement, SCBA President Barrister Abid S. Zuberi and Secretary Muqtedir Akhtar Shabbir said the judgement was issued in a “blatant violation” of the Islamabad High Court’s order, in which the trial court judge was asked to re-examine the jurisdiction of the ECP’s complaint.
“It is truly unfortunate that the Court has decided the case in absolute haste and without affording the accused a fair opportunity of hearing and in the absence of the counsel for the accused, which is in blatant violation of the accused’s fundamental rights as enshrined under Articles 4, 9, 10, 10A and 25 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” the statement read.
It said “such a hasty decision is against all settled principles of fairness, natural justice and due process of law and the timing of such a decision appears to be aimed at excluding political leaders from participating in upcoming elections”.
The statement added: “That the historical trend of disqualification and ban of popular political leaders by the judiciary is against the principles of democracy and fair trial as enshrined under the Constitution.
“It is pertinent to remember that the judiciary is the guardian of the Constitution and the fundamental rights enshrined therein; therefore, such judgments will only lower the people’s faith in the judiciary to uphold justice.”
Arrest not linked to political motive or elections: Marriyum
Addressing a press conference on the matter in Islamabad, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said the PTI chief refused to respond to the charges against him and resisted at various points whenever there were attempts to retrieve him for interrogation.
“Let me make it clear that the entire investigation in the case took place over 12 to 13 months,” she said, adding that Imran was arrested after fulfilling all stages of legal obligations and requirements.
“There was no political motive of the government involved behind his arrest,” the minister asserted, clarifying that the events also did not have anything to do with the upcoming general elections.
Aurangzeb further said that out of 40 hearing in the case Imran appeared in only three, adding that he attempted to use every legal platform to escape from the proceedings.
She also rebuffed any comparison between the arrests of Imran Khan and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif.
Khattak holds Imran responsible for arrest
Former KP chief minister, who parted ways with the PTI and formed his own party after the May 9 episode, said the court’s judgement made it clear that “our courts are independent, and they make decision keeping in view the law and Constitution”.
According to a statement issued by Ziaullah Bangash, information secretary of Khattak’s PTI-Parliamentarians, the former KP CM said: “The courts have the authority to give decisions as per the law against anyone who commits corruption or theft or misuses their authority in this country.
“From day one, our stance has been that solutions to all problems are possible through talks. But we can only pity where he is now because of [his] stubbornness, ego and greed for power.
“It took us years to make and strengthen this party (PTI), and he managed to divide it into [several] factions merely in a year just because of his greed for power.”
Khattak went on to criticise Imran for openly “humiliating” all those who helped him become the prime minister.
Imran was asked not to break the assemblies, but he paid no heed, Khattak said, adding that the PTI chief was facing a difficult situation today because of his “obstinacy” in the past.
The case, filed by ruling party lawmakers, is based on a criminal complaint filed by the ECP.
The case alleges that Imran had “deliberately concealed” details of the gifts he retained from the Toshaskhana — a repository where presents handed to government officials from foreign officials are kept — during his time as the prime minister and proceeds from their reported sales.
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.
Imran has faced a number of legal issues over his retention of gifts. The issue also led to his disqualification by the ECP.
On Oct 21, 2022, the ECP concluded that the former premier had indeed made “false statements and incorrect declarations” regarding the gifts.
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 complaint, 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.
On May 10, Imran was indicted in the case. However, on July 4, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had stayed the proceeding and directed ADSJ Dilawar to re-examine the matter in seven days, keeping in view eight legal questions he framed to decide the maintainability of the Toshakhana reference.
The questions had included whether the complaint was filed on behalf of the ECP by a duly authorised person, whether the ECP’s decision of Oct 21, 2022, was a valid authorisation to any officer of ECP to file a complaint, and whether the question of authorisation was a question of fact and evidence and could be ratified subsequently during the course of proceedings.
Finally, on July 9, ADSJ Dilawar while ruling that the reference was maintainable, revived the stalled proceedings and summoned the witnesses for testimony.
A session court had last month declared that the ECP reference against the PTI chief was maintainable. The decision was subsequently challenged in the IHC.
Earlier this week, Judge Dilawar had ruled that Imran’s legal team failed to prove the relevance of his witnesses. He had warned the defence counsel to conclude the arguments, or else the court would reserve an order.
A day earlier, the IHC gave a short breather to Imran, asking the judge to re-examine the jurisdiction and any procedure lapse in the filing of the complaint by the ECP.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Imran Khan’s lawyers were not present when the verdict was announced by the trial court. The error is regretted.
Additional input from Reuters, Arif Hayat, Haseeb Bhatti, Imtiaz Ali and Umar Bacha