ISLAMABAD: In a major decision, the Election Commission of Pakistan has disqualified PTI Chairman Imran Khan, finding him guilty of not sharing details of Toshakhana gifts and proceeds from their sale during his time as prime minister.
A five-member bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, unanimously ruled against Khan under Article 63 (p) of the Constitution.
In the decision announced by the ECP, it has been said that Khan is no longer a member of the National Assembly and that his response was "not correct".
According to the verdict, Khan has been involved in corrupt practices and his seat in the National Assembly has been declared vacant. The verdict has called for the initiation of legal action against Khan.
After the ECP ruled Khan misled officials about gifts he received while in power, his lawyer Gohar Khan said Khan was disqualified from running for political office for five years, AFP reported.
"The ECP has declared Imran Khan was involved in corrupt practices," said Gohar Khan after the verdict, adding: "We are going to challenge it in the Islamabad high court right now."
As a sequel to our abovementioned findings, facts available on record and keeping in view the argument of learned counsel for parties herein, we are of the considered opinion that the Respondent has become disqualified under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution read with Section 137,167 and 173 of the Elections Act, 2017, consequently he ceases to be a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan and his seat has become vacant accordingly.
As the respondent has made false statements and incorrect declarations, therefore he has also committed the offence of corrupt practices defined under Section 167 and 173 of the Elections Act,2017, punishable under Section 174 of the Elections Act, 2017. Office is directed to initiate legal proceedings and to take follow-up action under Section 190(2) of the Elections Act, 2017.
Shortly after the ECP verdict was announced, the PTI said it will challenge the decision against Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case in the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
PTI General Secretary Asad Umar, reacting to the ECP decision, said that the party is approaching the IHC today against the decision. "PTI will file a petition today," he said.
On the other hand, enraged over the ECP verdict, senior PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry called it a "shameful" decision which is an attack on the institutions of Pakistan.
Speaking to media persons after the verdict, Chaudhry said that the commission had given the verdict they had hoped for. "They are only targeting Imran Khan," he said.
The PTI leader said that the ECP and its members are not competent enough to make this decision. "Who are you [ECP] to take this decision?" he questioned.
"I ask the people of Pakistan to take to the streets for their rights. PTI and the nation reject this decision," he added.
Meanwhile, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto said that the Election Commission of Pakistan has found Imran Khan guilty of corrupt practices and he now stands disqualified.
“He who would spread lies about the alleged corruption of his political opponents has been caught red-handed," Bilawal said.
Moreover, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz demanded Imran Khan be arrested after he was found guilty of corrupt practices.
“Pakistan's first certified liar and certified thief disqualified with irrefutable evidence of theft,” the PML-N leader said.
She alleged that the husband and wife together looted the national kitty.
Federal Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar confirmed that the ECP has disqualified Imran Khan for five years.
While holding a press conference in Islamabad, he said that Khan presented incorrect facts before the Election Commission. "The ECP has been careful, otherwise another action could have been taken against Khan," he said.
He said that Imran Khan's colleagues are saying that there has been a great injustice. "Injustice happens when the law does not cover anything," he said.
The "Toshakhana" is a government department, which during the Mughal era referred to the "treasure houses" kept by the sub-continent's princely rulers to store and display gifts lavished on them.
Government officials must declare all gifts, but are allowed to keep those below a certain value. More expensive items must go to Toshakhana, but in some cases the recipient can buy them back at around 50% of their value -- a discount Khan raised from 20% while in office.
The Toshakhana reference filed for Imran’s disqualification was sent to the ECP by National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on the request of members of the ruling coalition. They alleged in the reference that Imran Khan did not disclose the income in his assets earned by selling gifts received from Toshakhana. The reference filed under Article 63 of the Constitution sought Imran Khan’s disqualification under Article 62-1(f).
The 28-page reference identified 52 gift items of Toshakhana received by the former prime minister Khan, violating the law and rules, taken away at nominal prices and most of the gifts were sold in the market, including some precious watches.
The assessed value of the gifts has been put at Rs142,042,100. The gifts were received between August 2018 and December 2021.
According to PML-N MNA Ranjha, Khan concealed information about the gift of watches by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in his statement of assets submitted in 2018-2019.
This withholding of information is tantamount to lying which, according to Ranjha, is a crime under Section 137.
He thus said that Khan was no more Sadiq and Ameen and should be slapped with disqualification for life from contesting the election under Article 62(1)(f), Article 2, Article 3 of the Constitution.
Article 62(1)(f) is the same legal instrument that disqualified former PM Nawaz Sharif from contesting elections and led to his removal from power, Ranjha said.
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