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ISLAMABAD: An Islamabad sessions court stated on Tuesday that charges against PTI chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan in the Toshakhana reference will be framed on February 7.
The reference alleging that Imran had not shared details of the gifts he retained from the Toshaskhana and proceeds from their reported sales was filed by lawmakers from the ruling coalition last year. On October 21, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had concluded that the former premier had indeed made “false statements and incorrect declarations” regarding the gifts — a ruling that prompted widespread protests by the PTI.
The watchdog’s order said Imran stood disqualified under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution.
Subsequently, the ECP had approached the Islamabad sessions court with a copy of the reference, seeking proceedings against Imran under criminal law for allegedly misleading officials about the gifts he received from foreign dignitaries during his tenure as the prime minister.
At the previous hearing, the court had reserved its judgement on ECP’s petition.
On Tuesday morning, Additional Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal pronounced the verdict with PTI lawyer Ali Bukhari and ECP counsel Advocate Saad Hasan in attendance.
Meanwhile, the PTI chief — who is recuperating after sustaining a gunshot wound following an assassination bid during a rally on Nov 3 — sought exemption from today’s hearing.
At the onset of the hearing today, the court asked Bukhari where Imran’s power of attorney was. Here, ECP’s counsel Hasan said that the power of attorney can not be presented until “Imran Khan comes to court himself.”
However, the PTI contended that Imran’s medical certificate had been submitted in court. “Give me five minutes, Barrister Gohar is just about to reach [the court],” he said.
The judge then instructed Bukhari to submit Imran’s power of attorney today.
At one point during the hearing, an argument erupted between the lawyers of the PTI and ECP after which Advocate Hasan requested the court to issue arrest warrants for the former premier.
Subsequently, Judge Iqbal directed Imran to submit surety bonds worth Rs20,000 and instructed him to ensure in-person attendance in court at the next hearing.
The reference was filed against Imran by the coalition government, for “not sharing details” of Toshakhana gifts and proceeds from their alleged sale. Lawmakers from the Pakistan Democratic Movement — the ruling alliance — had submitted the reference to NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who had subsequently forwarded it to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja for further action.
Established in 1974, the Toshakhana is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division and stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats, and officials by heads of other governments and states and foreign dignitaries.
According to Toshakhana rules, gifts/presents and other such materials received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division.
However, the PTI, while in government, had been reluctant to disclose details of the gifts presented to Imran since he assumed office in 2018, maintaining that doing so would jeopardise international ties, even as the Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) ordered it to do so.
But later, in a written reply submitted to the ECP on September 8, 2022, Imran had admitted to selling at least four presents he had received during his tenure as the prime minister.
The former premier, in his reply, had maintained that the sale of the gifts that he had procured from the state treasury after paying Rs21.56 million fetched about Rs58m. One of the gifts included a graff wristwatch, a pair of cuff links, an expensive pen and a ring while the other three gifts included four Rolex watches.
The reference against Imran was filed by MNA Barrister Mohsin Nawaz Ranjha carrying signatures of lawmakers Agha Hassan Baloch, Salahudeen Ayubi, Ali Gohar Khan, Syed Rafiullah Agha and Saad Waseem Sheikh and it was subsequently forwarded to CEC Raja.
In their disqualification reference, MNAs from the ruling alliance included documentary evidence to corroborate their claims against the ex-premier and sought his disqualification under Sections 2 and 3 of Article 63 of the Constitution, read with Article 62(1)(f).
Article 62(1)(f) says: “A person shall not be qualified to be elected or chosen as a member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) unless […] he is sagacious, righteous and non-profligate, honest and ameen, there being no declaration to the contrary by a court of law.”
Article 63(2) says: “If any question arises whether a member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) has become disqualified from being a member, the Speaker or, as the case may be, the Chairman shall, unless he decides that no such question has arisen, refer the question to the Election Commission within thirty days and should he fail to do so within the aforesaid period it shall be deemed to have been referred to the Election Commission.”
While, Article 63(3) reads: “The Election Commission shall decide the question within ninety days from its receipt or deemed to have been received and if it is of the opinion that the member has become disqualified, he shall cease to be a member and his seat shall become vacant.”
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