PTI chief Imran Khan is sitting alongside DIG Liaqat Malik, in a photo reportedly taken by one of the policemen escorting their vehicle after his arrest from Zaman Park.—White Star
PTI chief Imran Khan is sitting alongside DIG Liaqat Malik, in a photo reportedly taken by one of the policemen escorting their vehicle after his arrest from Zaman Park.—White Star

• PTI chief sentenced to three years for providing ‘false information’ about Toshakhana gifts
• Ex-PM moved to Attock jail after Adiala admin refuses to keep him, citing security concerns
• Govt, allies celebrate judgement, terming it ‘retribution’
• PTI finds 30-page ruling full of ‘loopholes’, vows to challenge it
• In pre-recorded message, Imran calls on people to hold ‘peaceful’ protests
• ECP official says Imran cannot remain party head anymore
• Judge leaves for UK

ISLAMABAD: After a trial court in Islamabad sentenced him to three years in prison in the Toshakhana case on Saturday, former prime minister Imran Khan was arrested from his Lahore residence and shifted to Attock jail in a swift police operation.

The police, already on standby in anticipation of a verdict in the hearing, swung into action minutes after Additional District and Sessions Judge Humayun Dilawar announced the verdict, which also disqualified the PTI chairman from contesting general elections.

In stark contrast to the police raids and subsequent resistance put up by PTI leaders and workers whenever police tried to take Mr Khan into custody earlier this year in March, Saturday’s arrest “was as smooth as butter”, according to police officials.

When the PTI chief was taken into custody from his Zaman Park residence along the scenic Canal Bank Road, no PTI leaders or workers were present, save for some passersby, sources said.

During the hearing in Islamabad, the PTI chief’s lawyer Khawaja Haris wanted to submit a request seeking adjournment of the case, but the judge refused to entertain it and expressed his annoyance with Mr Khan’s absence, stating that he should have been present in the court as he was already on bail.

The judge then adjourned the case, stating that he would announce the verdict at noon. Later, when the judge read out his order, there was complete silence in the small crowded room.

According to a court official, judge Humayun Dilawar’s security was increased after the judgement was announced. However, he left for the UK for a training course. His month-long leave was approved last month.

After the order was announced, the PTI’s legal team announced that they would challenge the conviction before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) next week.

‘Well-knitted evidence’

Concluding the 30-page detailed judgement, the trial court judge observed, “This court finds it more than convincing that the complainant [ECP] has produced confidence-inspiring, well-knitted and corroborated evidence, and so the charge against the accused has successfully been proven that accused has committed the offence of the corrupt practices.”

“He [Imran] cheated while providing information about gifts he obtained from Toshakhana which later proved to be false and inaccurate. His dishonesty has been established beyond doubt,” read the court order.

The court convicted the PTI chairman “under section 174 of the Elections Act 2017” and sentenced him to three years simple imprisonment with a fine of Rs100,000, in case of default, he will undergo six months of additional imprisonment.

‘Move him to Adiala’

Since Mr Khan was not present in the courtroom, the court handed over a copy of the warrant of conviction to the Islamabad police chief.

The warrant called on the police chief to arrest Imran Khan and move him to Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi to serve out his three-year sentence. The Adiala superintendent was directed to “receive the said convict Imran Khan Niazi into your custody… together with this warrant for serving out the stated sentence”.

However, the PTI chairman was moved to Attock in light of purported ‘security concerns’. Sources said that the court had directed the Islamabad police chief to hand over Mr Khan to the authorities at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi. After Imran Khan was handed over to the Adiala administration they recommended moving him to the Attock jail due to security concerns.

A senior official of the Election Commission of Pakistan said that since the court had declared him dishonest, Mr Khan was disqualified to hold public office and he could no longer remain the PTI chairman until his conviction is reversed. He, however, said that such a declaration may be sought from the ECP or courts.

‘Several loopholes’

The convoy tasked with delivering Mr Khan to the capital enters Islamabad toll plaza.—White Star
The convoy tasked with delivering Mr Khan to the capital enters Islamabad toll plaza.—White Star

Advocate Shoaib Shaheen, one of the members of Mr Khan’s legal team as well as the PTI core committee, told Dawn that it has been decided to file an appeal against the conviction. He said the appeal would be filed once Mr Khan would sign the ‘wakalatnama’ [power of attorney].

According to Shaheen, the core committee has examined the judgement and is of the view that it has several loopholes and could not sustain in the appellate forum. He said that the disqualification of Mr Khan will also end once the appellate court would set aside the conviction.

PDM ‘vendetta’

In his defence, Mr Khan stated that the PDM government has been trying to knock him out of the election race and this case…two assassination attempts on him plus the crackdown after May 9…[are] attempt(s) to make sure that PTI does not participate as a force in the elections.

The ECP’s lawyer argued that the PTI chairman “procured these [Toshakhana] gifts of Rs107 million in consideration of Rs21.5 million and sold them in consideration of Rs58 million”. However, this figure has not been shown in the assets declaration form.

He argued that Mr Khan mentioned four goats in the declaration but did not disclose the jewellery and other valuable gifts in his possession.

The court order noted that Mr Khan being a parliamentarian was required to submit the declaration of assets to the ECP in addition to the details of assets transferred by him to any person during the relevant financial years.

In his statement recorded under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) Mr Khan stated that “he was only required to disclose the items/assets that were in his ownership on the cut-off” date of June 30 of respective years.

“He maintains a position that he was not required to provide the details of any assets that were purchased and sold within the preceding financial year; rather he was only required to disclose the status of his assets as they existed on the relevant cut-off date.”

The judge termed this stance as “evasive denial” and an “incorrect and self-serving interpretation of relevant laws.”

“All these factors when considered in juxtaposition establish beyond any doubt that the failure of accused to disclose these assets in the relevant Forms- B, which forms were executed by the accused a solemn affirmation, were based upon mala fide intents and intentional dishonesty on his part,” the court ruled.

The judge observed that Mr Khan “committed the offence of corrupt practice under section 167(a) read with section 173 of the Elections Act.” Section 167 defines the corrupt practice and section 173 deals with making or publishing a false statement or declaration.

Subsequently, the judge convicted him under section 174 of the said law which entailed 3 years imprisonment and Rs100,000 fine for corrupt practices. Hence, the judge awarded Mr Khan the maximum punishment as provided in the Elections Act.

‘Break chains of slavery’

In a pre-recorded video message posted on social media shortly after his arrest, the PTI chief requested people not to sit silently at home since the movement for real freedom and justice was launched for the sake of people, the future of their children, not for his own person.

“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 — on the ground — are, they cannot fly high.

Recalling that Pakistan was founded on the concept of freedom, the PTI chief reminded the nation that no one would give freedom in a plate but you would have to struggle to break the shackles.

He also asserted that the nation should continue holding peaceful protests to get its fundamental rights, and the major fundamental right was to elect a government through transparent elections.

Mansoor Malik in Lahore also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2023



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