Imran’s trial in two graft cases runs into snags

Published January 21, 2024
This image shows an exterior wall of the Adiala jail, where Imran is currently incarcerated. — Reuters/File
This image shows an exterior wall of the Adiala jail, where Imran is currently incarcerated. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The disposal of two corruption references — Toshakhana and £190m cases — against former premier Imran Khan is likely to be delayed further, as the judge conducting the trial has applied for a long leave of absence till his retirement.

Judge Mohammad Bashir, who is also the longest-serving judge of the accountability courts, applied for leave with effect from Jan 24 till March 14 when his three-year term would expire.

Appointed to the accountability court in 2011 for a period of three years, Judge Bashir continued to get consecutive extensions after every three years.

He was thrust into political spotlight during the trial of former prime minister and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif in a corruption case before 2018 general elections. In a landmark verdict given on July 6 after the trial, he sentenced the ex-premier to 10 years in prison on charges related to London flats. His daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Mohammad Safdar were also convicted in the case for abetting in the crime and not cooperating with the investigation.

Judge Bashir applies for long leave till his retirement

Currently, Judge Bashir is conducting the trial of former premier Imran Khan and his spouse Bushra Bibi in the Toshakhana and £190m corruption references. Only a day ago, the indictment of the couple in £190m corruption case was deferred after Mr Khan changed his legal team. The newly engaged lawyer, Barris­ter Syed Ali Zafar, told the judge that he would appear in the case on Jan 25.

On the other hand, Mr Khan has challenged the jail trial in both cases before a division bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri. The bench is scheduled to hear his petition on Jan 22 against the jail trial.

Judge Bashir’s health condition deteriorated on Jan 15 during the hearing of Toshakhana reference inside Adiala Jail. He was shifted to jail’s hospital where he was diagnosed with high blood pressure. He was later moved to his house in Isla­m­abad once his health condition improved. While he had not fully recovered, he had to preside over the Tosha­khana case proceedings the very next day.

Besides conducting the high-profile cases inside the jail almost on a daily basis, the judge has been handling administrative and judicial affairs of three accountability courts of Islamabad, as there was no other accountability judge available in the capital, sources said.

They said he was “overburdened” with work, as particularly the jail trial was not easy for him. He had to keep waiting, sometimes for hours, for Mr Khan’s counsel with the result that sometimes he had to wrap up the proceeding in the late evening hours.

In Toshakhana case, Judge Bashir recorded the statement of two witnesses, while another witness was cross-examined.

Witness Imran Bashir, who evaluated the actual price of Graff jewellery set at $19.4m and submitted a report to the Pakistani consulate in the UAE, was cross-examined. He testified that the consulate tasked him with the evaluation of the jewellery and he evaluated the price on the basis of input received from diamond dealers and jewellery shops. He claimed that instead of the jewellery set, he was given photographs which he showed to the jewellery shops to get information. He conceded that he was not assigned the task in writing nor did the company that was hired for the evaluation has given him any authority letter.

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2024

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