• ECP de-notifies PTI chief as returned candidate from NA-45
• Ex-PM files appeal in IHC against Toshakhana conviction

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan, who has been convicted and jailed on graft charges, was barred from politics for five years on Tuesday by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The disqualification order came hours after Mr Khan filed an appeal against his conviction and three-year sentence in the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

The PTI chief was arrested on Saturday and whisked to Attock Jail after an Islamabad trial court found him guilty of failing to properly declare gifts he received while in office.

In its notification, the ECP cited the trial court’s order and declared Mr Khan disqualified under Article 63(1h) of the Constitution, read with Section 232 of the Elections Act, 2017.

The article deals with disqualifications for members of parliament. Its Clause 1h states that a legislator can be disqualified if they are convicted of “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”.

The ECP’s notification, seen by Dawn, said: “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 Election Commission referred to Saturday’s decision of the trial court judge, Humayun Dilawar, and noted that the court had found Mr Khan guilty of corrupt practices under Section 167 of the Elections Act and had been convicted under Section 174.

“We knew this was inevitable,” Mr Khan’s aide Zulfikar Bukhari told Reuters, saying the party would challenge the disqualification in the high court. “We’re highly con­f­i­d­ent it will be reversed,” he said.

Appeal against conviction

An IHC division bench comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri will hear the appeal on Wednesday (today).

Mr Khan has asked the court to set aside the judgement of the trial court and also suspend his imprisonment sentence until the high court’s final verdict.

The appeal, filed by Mr Khan’s lead counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed, said the IHC’s matter related to deciding jurisdiction and maintainability of the Toshakhana case to the trial court and the appellant was about to challenge this order in the Supreme Court, but Judge Dilawar fixed the case for final arguments on Aug 5.

“We’ve submitted an appeal... our plea requests a temporary suspension of the trial court’s ruling and seeks bail,” Gohar Khan, another lawyer of Mr Khan, told AFP.

“The court will take up the case tomorrow and because the sentence is short, we hope that Imran Khan will be granted bail in (several) weeks’ time,” he said.

Another one of his lawyers warned authorities would try to delay the process. “Curre­ntly, there is no rule of law in Pakistan. We are rushing from one court to another,” said Mishal Yousafzai.

The appeal filed by Mr Khan said that since his legal team was preparing the petition for filing the case and also filed another application to transfer the matter to another court, they could not refute the final arguments of the ECP’s counsel.

The appeal stated that the trial court convicted Mr Khan with a “pre-disposed mind” and sentenced him to three years imprisonment with a fine of Rs100,000. The judgement was passed “without providing proper or adequate opportunity of hearing”, it added.

The appellant accused Judge Dilawar of writing the judgement beforehand and conducting a hearing on Aug 5 as “eyewash”.

It went on to state that the judgement was also in contradiction to an IHC order of Aug 4.

It requested the court to set aside Mr Khan’s conviction and order his release until the final adjudication of the appeal. The petition also asked the court to issue directives for Mr Khan’s release after suspending his punishment.

Earlier on Tuesday, the registrar’s office had raised the objection against the appeal. It said that a petition for the suspension of the sentence couldn’t be made along with the appeal as per the Elections Act.

Meanwhile, IHC ordered the jail authorities to provide facilities to the PTI chairman as per the jail manual.

The IHC chief justice also allowed Mr Khan’s wife, Bushra Bibi, and his counsel to visit him in Attock Jail.

He was hearing the petition seeking better facilities and shifting Mr Khan to Adiala Jail of Rawalpindi.

After a preliminary hearing, the court removed the administrative objections from the petition of Mr Khan and fixed it for a regular hearing on Wednesday (today).

Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2023

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