Former prime minister Imran Khan — who is currently incarcerated in Attock Jail — filed a plea in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday, challenging his conviction in the Toshakhana case by a trial court.
The petition will be taken up tomorrow (Wednesday) by a two-member bench comprising IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri.
On August 5, a trial court in Islamabad had sentenced Imran to three years in prison in the case. The verdict also disqualified Imran from contesting general elections.
“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,” the 30-page court order said.
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 judgment and arrested him from his Zaman Park residence in Lahore.
Today, Imran filed a petition in the IHC — through his lawyers — against the trial court’s August 5 verdict, saying that the said order was “not sustainable” and “liable to be set aside”.
The plea, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, named the district election commissioner of Islamabad as the respondent in the case.
It stated that the judgment passed by the trial court judge was “tainted with bias, is a nullity in the eye of the law and is liable to be set aside”.
Explaining the grounds for its request, the plea said that the Aug 5 order was passed “with the pre-disposed mind” of the trial court judge to convict and sentence the appellant “irrespective of the merits of the case”.
It said the order was issued without providing the petitioner with a chance to fight his case and alleged that ADSJ Dilawar had refused to hear the arguments of Khawaja Haris, Imran’s counsel in the Toshakhana case, on the pretext that he was late — which the plea claimed was because he was filing other applications with the Supreme Court and IHC.
“The impugned judgment was announced despite the fact that before commencement counsel for the appellant was very much in court fully prepared to address arguments after explaining the reasons for the delay in arriving in court, but the trial judge, who throughout the proceedings had been exhibiting his extreme bias towards the appellant and his counsel, and constantly using disparaging remarks against them, even in their absence, was bent on carrying out a well-orchestrated plan […].”
This, the petition said, was a “slap in the face due process and fair trial” and “a gross travesty of justice”.
It further alleged that the Aug 5 judgment was “already written” by the trial court judge, highlighting how the latter only took “30 minutes” to “dictate more than 35 pages” of the judgment.
Moreover, the petition said the verdict was in violation of the IHC’s Aug 4 orders, in which the high court had asked the trial court to “decide afresh” on the PTI chief’s application pertaining to the maintainability of the Toshakhana case.
Referring to the Supreme Court rules, the plea highlighted that “proceedings held by the learned trial court judge culminating in the conviction of the appellant in the instant case are corum non judice without jurisdiction thereby rendering the conviction and sentence of appellant void ab initio nugatory in the eyes of the law”.
It also highlighted that there was not an “iota” of evidence presented by the prosecution regarding the Toshakhana gifts and none of the witnesses provided by the ECP presented evidence in the case.
“The prosecution has not let any evidence whatsoever that the appellant had transferred any asset during any of the relevant financial years without adequate consideration or by revocable transfer.”
The petition subsequently prayed that the trial court verdict be set aside, while also urging the court to declare Imran’s conviction and sentence “illegal and without lawful authority”, and to acquit him of the charges.
PTI lawyers granted permission to meet Imran
Separately, the IHC granted Imran’s lawyers permission to meet the PTI chief at Attock Jail as the court took up a petition filed by the party seeking A-Class facilities for the ex-premier.
It urged that Imran be allowed to regularly meet with his legal team, family members, personal doctor Dr Faisal Sultan and political aides — the lists for which were also submitted to the court.
After his arrest, Imran was given B-Class facilities by the Punjab prisons department. However, his lawyers and the party claimed they were not allowed by the jail administration to meet the PTI chairman.
A day earlier, Naeem Haider Panjotha, spokesman to Imran on legal affairs, was finally allowed to meet the PTI chief. Talking to reporters after the meeting, which lasted one hour and 45 minutes, the lawyer said Imran was being kept in “distressing conditions” and provided “C-Class jail facilities”.
Today, the IHC registrar initially raised objections to the petition, which were later removed by PTI lawyer Sher Afzal Marwat.
During the hearing, IHC CJ Aamer Farooq said that the court would issue an order as per the prison rules. “Keep this in mind that an order will be released for the provision of those facilities that are mentioned in the prison rules.”
The judge then asked Marwat to provide the names of two to three lawyers for meeting with Imran, adding that an order would be issued according to that.
In an order issued later in the day, the court said PTI lawyers Umair Niazi, Marwat and Panjotha would be allowed to meet Imran.
“The jail authorities at Attock Jail shall provide due counsel access to the petitioner for signatures on Wakalatnama and instructions as provided in Jail Manual and other laws,” it added.
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.
Last 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.
On August 3, 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. However, a day later, the trial court convicted the ex-premier.