• March 5 fixed for hearing of appeal in cipher case; Qureshi seeks suspension of sentence
• PTI says CJP cannot be ‘fair’ in Imran-related cases

ISLAMABAD: Perturbed by the prosecution agencies’ response to ex-prime minister Imran Khan’s appeals against his conviction in cipher and Toshakhana cases, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday directed the federal government to appoint prosecutors before the next date of hearing.

The IHC division bench comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb resumed hearing on the appeals against the conviction of Mr Khan and ex-foreign minister Shah Mah­mood Qureshi in the cipher case.

Barrister Salman Safdar, counsel for the former premier, informed the court that Mr Qureshi had filed an application seeking suspension of his sentence.

The directive to the government came when Deputy Attorney General Azmat Tarar apprised the court that the appointment of two special prosecutors of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had not been finalised as the process was still ongoing.

Justice Aurangzeb expressed displeasure and remarked that the court wouldn’t be bothered if the prosecutors were not appointed by March 5, the next date of hearing.

Justice Aurangzeb told Mr Tarar, “You are representing the state. You should take notes and share with the prosecution as the court continues the hearing.”

Barrister Safdar invited the court’s attention to Mr Khan’s ‘speedy’ trial, saying that prosecution had produced 25 witnesses before the judge in one single day while trial court recorded their testimonies till midnight.

He pointed out that the judge moved the court to a “secret” location where the “prosecution and the judge played a match together”.

CJ Farooq remarked that since the hearing on the appeals had already been fixed, the counsel may advance his arguments at length on the same date and the court would examine the matter accordingly.

While dictating the order of the day, Justice Farooq said: “The conduct of state/respondent is not prompt and is not appreciated.”

The court directed the state to complete the process for the appointment of prosecutor before the next date of hearing.

The bench then took up the appeals of Mr Khan and his spouse, Bushra Bibi, against their conviction in the Toshakhana reference.

Barrister Syed Ali Zafar, counsel for the couple, argued that this matter was even graver as the judge had closed the right of cross-examination in this case.

NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Azhar Maqbool Shah informed the court that Special Prosecutor Amjad Sohail was not available owing to the death of his a relative.

He suggested the hearing may be adjourned till March 11.

Justice Farooq reminded him that it is the bench that schedules and regulates the hearing.

Barrister Safdar stated that Mr Khan, his spouse and Mr Qureshi had also filed petitions seeking suspension of their sentence and conviction.

Justice Aurangzeb remarked that IHC had already ruled in the matter related to suspension of conviction and the matter was pending before the Supreme Court.

“We have already fixed the appeals for a short date, if you want us to take up the petitions seeking suspension of conviction, then we would adjourn the hearing sine die,” remarked the judge.

Barrister Zafar, however, reques­ted the court to hear the appeals.

Subsequently, the case was adjourned to March 5.

Iddat case

District and Sessions Judge Shah­rukh Arjumand took up Mr Khan and Bushra Bibi’s appeals against their conviction in the Iddat case.

The judge issued notices to complainant Khawar Farid Maneka and adjourned the hearing to March 11.

Salman Akram Raja, counsel for the PTI’s founder, argued that Mr Khan married Bushra Bibi 70 days after the latter got divorce from Mr Maneka. He said that filing of complaint by Mr Maneka after a gap of six years was an afterthought.

He further said that the trial court had overlooked legal provisions and religious principles while convicting them in this case.

Complaint against CJP

Talking to media persons outside Adiala Jail, PTI leader Shoaib Shaheen recalled that a five-member bench of the Supreme Court had in 2021 pointed out that Justice Qazi Faez Isa was prejudiced against the former premier and, therefore, held that he should not hear the cases involving Mr Khan.

Mr Shaheen said the PTI’s leadership was of the opinion that Justice Isa could not be fair now and should recuse himself from matters related to Mr Khan.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2024

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