• Ex-PM, spouse each get 14-year jail in Toshakhana case; Banigala declared sub-jail for Bushra Bibi
• PTI calls it ‘travesty of justice’
• IHC refuses to quash proceedings in iddat case
• Bilawal, Maryam offer mixed reaction to ruling

ISLAMABAD: A day after a hasty trial ended in a 10-year jail term for him and his close aide, an accountability court sentenced former prime minister Imran Khan and his spouse Bushra Bibi to 14 years in jail and imposed Rs1,540 million fine in the Toshakhana reference.

After the conviction, Mr Khan and his spouse are barred from holding public office for 10 years. The case said the couple retained expensive jewellery from Toshakhana after paying a nominal price.

Separately, the Islam­abad High Court refused to quash proceedings in the Iddat case, saying the charge had already been framed by the trial court. It, however, gave the couple some relief by dropping the ‘illegitimate relations’ charge (496-B).

Toshakhana reference

Accountability judge Mohammad Bashir was supposed to record the statement of Imran Khan, as he had recorded the testimony of Bushra Bibi a day earlier.

When he resumed the proceedings in the makeshift courtroom at Adiala Jail, Mr Khan’s legal team was not in attendance. The judge summoned him in the courtroom. Deputy Superintendent Akram brought him to the court where Judge Bashir asked the ex-premier to record his statement under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

Mr Khan refused to record the statement in the absence of his counsel, saying the special court had similarly sentenced him after recording his testimony. He said the jail official also blindsided him by asking him to come to the courtroom “because the judge wanted to mark his attendance”.

He then informed the judge that he had prepared some points of the statement but the papers were kept in the jail’s cell. The judge said the court staff could bring the papers, but Mr Khan said that they didn’t know where he kept them.

Subsequently, Mr Khan was allowed to bring the papers. The PTI founder left the courtroom, but never came back.

The deputy superintendent was asked again to bring him to the courtroom but he returned empty-handed. Accor­ding to Imran Khan, he would not return to the courtroom until his legal team arrived.

Sub-jail for Bushra

Eventually, the judge sentenced him and his wife — in their absence — to 14 years in jail, along with a hefty fine.

After the sentence was announced, Bushra Bibi returned to the jail to serve her sentence. How­ever, in a late-night notification, the Banigala house of Imran Khan was turned into a sub-jail for her at the request of the Adiala Jail superintendent.

The capital police were accordingly informed abo­ut deployment outside the sub-jail and to ensure the sec­urity of the convict, while prison officials will be deployed inside the sub-jail.

According to an official, the Punjab police are also likely to be deployed outside the sub-jail for security reasons.

According to the prosecution, the former premier and the ex-first lady retained expensive ‘Graff’ jewellery worth Rs300m along with Rs9m accessories. During the case, the prosecution produced 16 out of 20 witnesses.

The ex-PM’s military secretary and deputy military secretary were not produced. However, Mr Khan contended that evaluation by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was based on the estimate of a part-time salesman. He said his legal team was in possession of evidence of the actual value of the jewellery set, which they could corroborate with an appraiser if allowed to cross-examine.

‘Travesty of justice’

PTI Secretary General Omar Ayub Khan strongly rejected the ‘kangaroo’ court’s decision against Mr Khan and Bushra Bibi, calling it a ‘travesty of justice’.

“We will [file] appeal against this decision in the high court and continue our legal battle. We should harness and channel these energies for the polling day on February 8, 2024, by ensuring a massive voter turnout to ensure that Imran Khan’s nominated candidates are returned to the assemblies with a thumping majority,” Omar Ayub said.

PPP, PML-N reaction

PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari disapproved of “celebrations” over the jail sentence.

“As a former prime minister is not allowed to contest elections, a party is celebrating this development. In 2018, another party had similar celebrations. We are not those who celebrate the plight of political opponents,” Mr Bhutto-Zardari told an election rally in Batkhela.

Besides, PML-N Senior Vice President Maryam Nawaz said those who used to accuse others were now being convicted themselves.

“Those who hurled false accusations at others are now facing the conseque­nces of their actions. This is the result of their deeds,” she told an election meeting in Zafarwal (Narowal).

“The Toshakhana verdict has little to do with the law. It undermines peop­le’s faith in the justice system when the law is weaponised, and fundamental rig­hts are ignored,” lawyer Rida Hosain told Dawn.com.

‘Iddat’ case

Separately, the Islam­abad High Court did not quash Iddat case proceedings against Mr Khan, saying the trial court had already framed the charges under Section 496 which pertained to ‘fraudulent marriage’.

But Mr Khan did get some relief as the court rem­oved the charge of illegitimate relations (Section 496-B) against Mr Khan and his spouse. This charge had not been framed by the court. IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq disposed of the petition of Bushra Bibi and observed that the “req­u­­ired procedure was not ado­pted” for invoking Sec­tion 496-B (fornication) of the Pakis­tan Penal Code (PPC).

Jail trial

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri dismissed the petition seeking to set aside the notification of the jail trial of former prime minister Imran Khan. The court noted that the law empowered the government to issue notifications regarding ‘place’ or ‘places’ of sitting of a court.

The bench observed that since the matter rel­ated to the accountability court, the federal government “was competent to issue notifications”.

The bench further observed that “summary before the cabinet shows that it is only because of security reasons that trial of the petitioner is being conducted at a place other than a court house”.

Munawer Azeem also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2024

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