ISLAMABAD: Admitting appeals of ex-premier Imran Khan, his spouse Bushra Bibi and ex-minister Shah Meh­mood Qureshi against their convictions in the cipher and Toshakhana cases, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday requisitioned record related to the trial court proceedings by March 7.

The PTI founder and the ex-minister were sentenced to jail for 10 years in cipher case by a special court. In the Toshakhana reference, the ex-premier and his spouse were awarded 14 years’ jail term each.

Both appeals were taken up for hearing by a division bench comprising IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb.

Barrister Syed Ali Zafar and Barrister Salman Safdar represented Mr Khan in the cipher case.

Barrister Safdar argued that there were serious anomalies in the procedure adopted to convict the PTI leaders in the cipher case. He said the Special Court (Official Secrets Act) bypassed the law and deprived Mr Khan and Mr Qureshi of remedy available in law for their defence.

According to the appeal, the arrest of Mr Khan and hearing for remand took place in the “most objectionable, clandestine, and secretive manner” on Aug 16, last year. The prosecution did not share complete record and the judge indicted the PTI leaders in haste. Owing to the glaring illegalities, the appeal mentioned, an IHC bench scrapped the proceeding twice. Yet Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain concluded the trial without complying with the mandatory procedural requirements, it claimed.

The appeal claimed that the ex-PM and his legal counsel “extended all the cooperation” to the trial court and did not seek unnecessary adjournment. But the judge did not ensure fair trial, as “the proceedings were hurried through by the court in breakneck speed for reasons known only to the court itself”, it argued, pointing out that the trial was “concluded in less than 20 days”.

While one of the defence counsel could not appear before the court as he had to rush to Lahore for dental surgery, the court appointed state counsel for Mr Khan and Mr Qureshi despite strong objection by the PTI leaders, according to the appeal. Both leaders requested the court to make a call to their lead counsel in order to seek his assistance during cross-examination, but the trial court refused to wait for him.

The appeal claimed that the cipher case trial was then shifted to a “secret room” and concluded within a very short span of time.

Objections overruled

The IHC division bench also took up applications seeking suspension of their sentences till the final adjudication of the main appeals against their conviction. At the outset, the bench overruled the objections to the petitions raised by the registrar office.

Also in Toshakhana case, Barrister Zafar argued an accountability court convicted the ex-PM and his spouse without even giving them right to cross-examine prosecution witnesses.

While issuing notices to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in the cipher case and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in Toshakhana reference, the high court later adjourned further proceedings on the appeals and applications till March 7.

Meanwhile, the IHC bench comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri issued notice to the NAB on the plea of the PTI founder and his wife seeking post-arrest bail in 190 million pounds corruption case.

Appearing on behalf of the petitioners, Advocate Sardar Latif Khan Khosa said the trial court decision that dismissed the bail applications of the petitioners was ‘erroneous’ and requested the IHC bench to accept the bail pleas.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2024

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