ISLAMABAD: A local court in the federal capital on Tuesday accepted Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan's petition for exemption from an appearance at today's hearing of the controversial Toshakhana case.
The former prime minister is facing a scandal surrounding the case of alleged corrupt practices related to the state gift depository.
The sessions court had to formally frame charges against Khan for allegedly indulging in corrupt practices — allegations which he denies — but the indictment was deferred as the court granted Khan an exemption on medical grounds.
At the last hearing on January 31, additional sessions judge Zafar Iqbal directed the PTI chairman to submit surety bonds of Rs20,000 to ensure his appearance today for indictment in the case. However, Khan skipped the hearing and filed a petition via his lawyers, seeking an exemption from today's hearing.
At the outset of the hearing, the PTI's legal team filed a petition on behalf of Imran Khan seeking exemption from personal appearance, citing health issues.
Khan has been skipping court proceedings in all cases he is facing as he is recuperating from wounds he sustained in a gun attack on November 3 during a rally last year.
The judge asked the PTI lawyer about the surety bonds. At this, the lawyer informed the court that they had submitted the bonds a day earlier.
"How can we frame charges if exemption pleas are filed again and again?" the judge asked.
Khan's lawyer, Barrister Ali Zafar, argued that they had not been provided attested copies of the evidence and complaint.
At this, the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) lawyer said that they had provided the documents in court. However, the judge directed the lawyer to ensure that all the required material is provided to the defence.
During the proceedings, the ECP lawyer asked, "Why did Imran Khan not appear before the court?"
"We have seen him dancing on the container."
At this, Zafar warned the ECP representative from making such statements.
He also requested the court to fix any date after February 15 for an appearance.
"Give us a date when Imran Khan will appear" the judge inquired.
"He will come if he is able to," the counsel responded.
Later, the court reserved the verdict, which was announced after a brief adjournment of the proceedings.
While pronouncing the verdict, the judge directed the legal team of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to provide attested copies of the evidence and complaint. A new date for the framing of charges will be announced later.
The reference was filed by the ECP in November last year, praying the court to proceed against the PTI chief under criminal law for allegedly misleading officials about the gifts he received from foreign dignitaries during his tenure as prime minister.
The ECP had requested that the PTI chief be convicted for the offences mentioned under sections 167 (corrupt practice) and 173 (making or publishing a false statement or declaration) of the Elections Act 2017.
It added that as per the record, the state gifts were purchased from the Toshakhana for Rs21.5 million on the basis of their assessed value, while they were valued at around Rs108 million.
In August 2022, National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf had sent a reference to the ECP under articles 62A, 63A, and 223, seeking former prime minister Imran Khan’s disqualification in the light of the Toshakhana scam.
On October 22, the Election Commission had found the former prime minister guilty of submitting “false statements and an incorrect declaration” in his nomination papers and disqualified him.
Exactly a month after the disqualification verdict, an Islamabad court had sent a notice to the PTI chief after receiving the Toshakhana reference from ECP, which marked the beginning of a trial against Imran Khan.
In the reference, the electoral body had said that Khan “deliberately concealed facts" and submitted a false declaration of his assets and liabilities.
The court sent another notice to Khan on December 15, notifying him about initiating criminal proceedings against him for allegedly indulging in corrupt practices, on January 9.
However, the PTI chairman has been consistently absent from the hearings throughout and failed to appear before the court on January 31 as well.
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