The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday disqualified former prime minister Imran Khan for five years following his conviction in the Toshakhana case last week.

An Islamabad trial court on Saturday sentenced Imran — who was absent from the hearing — to three years of imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs100,000 on him while hearing the ECP’s criminal complaint against the PTI chief for concealing details of Toshakhana gifts. The court found him 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 read.

Imran was subsequently arrested by Punjab police from his Zaman Park residence in Lahore.

The verdict signified that Imran technically stood disqualified from holding any public office for five years under Article 63(1)(h) of the Constitution, which 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.”

In a notification issued today, the ECP cited Saturday’s court order and declared Imran disqualified under Article 63(1)(h) of the Constitution read with Section 232 of the Elections Act, 2017.

“Therefore, Mr Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi is disqualified for a period of five years and is also de-notified as a returned candidate from constituency NA-45 Kurram-I,” the notification, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said.

Reacting to the development, the PTI said it rejected the notification for Imran’s disqualification.

“The nation too rejects this attempt for the execution of the ‘minus-one formula’ in haste on the basis of a discriminatory decision, which is a result of a controversial trial,” the party said in a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter.

Earlier today, the PTI held a core committee meeting where Imran was declared the party’s chairman for lifetime.

Imran also filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) through his lawyers today against the trial court’s Toshakhana verdict, saying that the said order was “not sustainable” and “liable to be set aside”.

The petition will be taken up tomorrow (Wednesday) by a two-member bench comprising IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri.

Imran’s conviction and consequent disqualification follow a tumultuous period in Pakistan’s politics which began with his ouster as the prime minister through a no-confidence vote in April last year. After the premature end of his government, the ex-premier launched an aggressive campaign under the slogan of ‘Haqeeqi Azadi’, calling for elections and blaming the incumbent government and army leadership for his ouster.

His criticism of the current civilian and military leadership had increased leading up to his arrest on May 9 in the Al Qadir Trust case — a development that sparked protests across the country, during which several properties, including military installations, were vandalised. The PTI continues to face action since.

His disqualification by the ECP comes four days before his government would have completed its tenure — on August 12 — had the party lawmakers not resigned in the wake of Imran’s removal.

Toshakhana case

The Toshkhana case, filed by ruling party lawmakers, was based on a criminal complaint filed by the ECP.

The case alleged 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 additional district and session judge (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.

On August 4, 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 Friday, 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.

But a day later, Imran was convicted in the case and arrested. He is being kept in Attock jail.

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