ISLAMABAD: The FIA prosecutor on Friday asked the Special Court (Official Secrets Act) seized with the cipher case against former prime minister Imran Khan to close the defence counsel’s right of cross-examination, alleging that the defence side was applying delaying tactics to prolong the trial.

FIA special prosecutor Raja Rizwan Abbasi informed Judge Abual Hasnat Mohammad Zulqarnain that a witness had come from the UAE to attend the court proceedings, but the defence counsel did not bother to come to the court.

Sikandar Zulqarnain, the lead counsel for Imran Khan, was not in attendance.

Khalid Yousaf Chaudhry, an associate counsel, informed the judge that Advocate Zulqarnain was suffering from toothache and had gone for a surgery and, therefore, was not available for cross-examination. He requested the court to adjourn the hearing till next week. The judge, however, adjourned the hearing till Saturday.

Meanwhile, the accountability court will resume proceedings in the Toshakhana case on Saturday.

Judge Bashir intends to withdraw leave application

Judge Mohammad Bashir

In a surprise move, accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir, who is hearing two references against Imran Khan and seeking a leave preparatory to retirement (LPR), intends to withdraw the leave application.

Judge Bashir had last week applied for the leave with effect from Jan 24, 2024 till his retirement on March 14. He is the longest-serving judge of the accountability court. He was appointed in 2011 for a period of three years. He, however, got consecutive extensions after every three years.

The judge was hearing references relating to Toshakhana gifts and GBP190 million corruption against former PM Khan and his spouse. Another reference related to Toshakhana vehicles was also pending before him in which former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and former president Asif Ali Zardari are also nominated as accused persons.

While the reference of Toshakhana vehicles is being taken up once in a month and has recently been adjourned till Feb 13, Judge Bashir is conducting frequent proceedings in Toshakhana gifts and GBP190m corruption cases at Adiala Jail.

A day earlier, Mr Khan requested the judge to adjourn the hearing of his two references till Feb 13 and demanded a joint hearing of both the cases related to Toshakhana.

Sources privy to the development told Dawn that judge Bashir submitted the leave application to the Islamabad High Court, a copy of which was also transmit­ted to the Ministry of Law and Justice.

However, the law ministry was of the view that since he was a judicial officer, the IHC was the competent forum to send him on leave or otherwise.

The judge, on the other hand, continued proceeding in references against Mr Khan at Adiala Jail on Jan 24 onward and would conduct the hearing in the Tosha­khana gifts case on Saturday (today).

The sources said the judge verbally communicated the IHC administration of withdrawal of his leave application; however, the registrar office conveyed him to send an application in writing seeking withdrawal of the LPR.

Accountability court registrar Manan Awan did not comment when contacted.

It may be mentioned that judge Bashir’s health condition deteriorated on Jan 15 at Adiala Jail during the hearing of Toshakhana reference. He was shifted to the jail’s hospital and was diagnosed that he was collapsed due to high blood pressure.

The judge was shifted to his house in Islamabad after his health condition improved a bit. Though he was not fully recovered, he had to preside over the proceedings of Toshakhana case on the very next day.

Judge Bashir is currently looking after three accountability courts of Islamabad since there is no other accountability judge available in the capital.

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2024

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