• IHC grants post-arrest bail to PTI chairman in Toshakhana case
• Ex-PM to stay in jail due to cipher case, hearing due today
• Imran’s lawyers move high court against possible arrest in other cases
• JIT formed to investigate social media campaign against IHC CJ

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday suspended the conviction of former prime minister Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case and ordered his release, but the PTI chairman could not be released from jail due to the cipher case against him.

A division bench comprising IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri announced the verdict in response to the petition filed by the PTI chairman against his sentence in the Toshakhana case by a sessions court in Islamabad.

The court asked his legal team to submit surety bonds worth Rs100,000. However, his lawyers had not deposited the surety bonds till the evening. Sources in the IHC said that the officials in the relevant branch were available even after the closing hours, but no one appeared to deposit the surety bonds.

Since Mr Khan was already on judicial remand in the cipher case registered against him by the Federal Investigation Agency on August 5, his release seems highly unlikely.

On Aug 15, the former premier was sent on a 14-day judicial remand by a special court constituted under the amended Official Secrets Act. Special Court Judge Abul Hasnat Muhammad Zulqarnain in his order to the jail superintendent had said, “…accused Imran Khan Niazi …is hereby ordered for judicial remand in case FIR mentioned above, who is already detained in district jail, Attock.”

The special court will take up the case against the PTI chairman today in the jail due to reported security concerns. PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who is on physical remand, will appear before the court in the jail as well. Meanwhile, PTI leader Asad Umar’s pre-arrest bail in the cipher case was extended till September 14.

Talking to Dawn, Barrister Gohar Ali Khan, a member of the PTI’s core committee and counsel for Imran Khan, said that the special court could not have sent Mr Khan on judicial remand without due process. He said that the legal team would submit the surety bonds in the morning and would move the special court for the ex-PM’s bail in the cipher case.

It may be mentioned that Mr Khan is facing about 180 cases, out of which 34 have been registered in Islamabad. Police sources said Mr Khan has not been arrested even in a single case by the capital police. Barrister Gohar said that the PTI has also filed a petition in the IHC to stop the police and investigation agencies from arresting Mr Khan in any other case. It may be noted that Mr Khan is also facing NAB cases.

IHC order

The high court in its order said, “Application is allowed and the sentence awarded by the trial court vide judgement dated August 5, 2023, is suspended; consequently, the applicant is ordered to be released on bail in the instant matter subject to furnishing bail bonds.”

In the eight-page judgement, the bench reproduced the contentions of PTI’s counsel Sardar Latif Khan Khosa according to which the complaint of the ECP was suffering from jurisdictional defects, it was supposed to be routed through the magistrate and the sessions court did not have jurisdiction to directly entertain the matter.

He further argued that the complaint filed on behalf of the ECP also was not instituted through the duly appointed person. He went on to state that the trial court turned down the application seeking summoning of witnesses saying that they were irrelevant.

ECP counsel Amjad Pervaiz pointed out that the appellant did not implead the state as necessary party in the appeal against conviction.

He argued that the complaint could not have been filed through the magistrate as the Lahore High Court in the case of Malik Iqbal Ahmed Lagrial had endor­sed the filing of ECP’s complaint directly to the sessions court.

He further argued that the secretary was the “executive head” of the institution and he was competent to authorise the deputy election commissioner to file the complaint against Mr Khan.

In a rebuttal to the arguments that Mr Khan’s defence was closed arbitrarily, advocate Pervaiz argued that the trial court gave ample opportunities to Mr Khan for defence and on many occasions “neither the applicant nor his counsel” showed up. He argued that “the accused does not have as a matter of right, opportunity to lead evidence in defence and has to satisfy the conscious of the court that the material he seeks to produce is relevant.”

The bench was of the view that “the arguments raised by both sides as to jurisdiction and other issues involve a deeper appreciation of the matter which at the stage of suspension is not warranted, especially, where the sentence is a short one, hence though lengthy arguments were addressed by the parties, such questions are not decided and are left to be decided at the stage when the appeal is taken up for adjudication.”

“The sentence involved in the instant matter is short, hence, we feel that the applicant is entitled to the suspension of sentence and be released on bail,” the court ruled.

Separately, the interior ministry also formed a joint investigation team to probe the social media campaign against the IHC CJ. The team, comprising FIA, ISI, IB, and police representatives, will submit its report to the ministry within 15 days.

Meanwhile, Imran’s wife Bushra Bibi and sisters Aleema and Uzma Khan met him in jail on Tuesday. It was the first meeting of Mr Khan with his sisters.

Jail officials said that Bushra Bibi along with two lawyers reached the jail to meet Mr Khan.

After approval from jail authorities, only the former first lady was granted permission to meet the PTI chief.

Subsequently, Aleema Khan and Uzma Khan met the PTI chief for about an hour.

Separately, the Attock police picked up nine PTI supporters who had arrived outside the prison to celebrate the suspension of Mr Khan’s sentence.

Amjad Iqbal in Taxila also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, August 30th, 2023

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