Tuesday May 28, 2024

Toshakhana case: Islamabad court cancels Imran Khan's arrest warrants

Judge adjourns hearing till March 30; orders Imran Khan to ensure his presence

By Ahmed Subhan & Arfa Feroz Zake & Ayaz Akbar Yousafzai & Jawad Malik
March 18, 2023

A vehicle burns outside the Federal Judicial Complex in the G-11 area of Islamabad. Skirmishes broke out between police and PTI workers plunging the area into chaos after PTI Chairman Imran Khan reached a trial court to attend the Toshakhana case hearing on March 18, 2023. — GeoNews
A vehicle burns outside the Federal Judicial Complex in the G-11 area of Islamabad. Skirmishes broke out between police and PTI workers plunging the area into chaos after PTI Chairman Imran Khan reached a trial court to attend the Toshakhana case hearing on March 18, 2023. — GeoNews

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: A session court on Saturday cancelled Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan's arrest warrants after he was allowed to mark his attendance from his vehicle as chaos gripped the Islamabad Judicial Complex due to the former prime minister's appearance before a trial court.

The judge adjourned the hearing till March 30 and told the parties in the case that arguments will take place during the next hearing and also ordered Khan to ensure his presence.

In line with PTI's insistence that Khan's life is in danger and he needs security, Islamabad Chief Commissioner Noorul Amin Mengal shifted the hearing from F-8 Court Complex to the Judicial Complex in G-11 as a "one-time dispensation".

Ahead of Khan's arrival at Islamabad's Judicial Complex, the area was put on high security to ensure law and order and avoid any untoward situation — as happened last month.

But history repeated itself and PTI workers began stoning authorities inside the premises of the Islamabad Judicial Complex, resulting in teargas being spread to the courtroom where Khan was set to appear before the judge.

For the second time in a row, the PTI workers broke the security barrier of the complex and entered its premises forcefully along with their party chief. Police sources also said that the workers were firing teargas at law enforcers.

Geo News reporters on the spot said PTI workers also heavily damaged three police mobiles and targeted law enforcers through slingshots, which forced police to fire teargas.

The PTI chief was scheduled to appear before the court at 3:30pm, but he ran into back-to-back hurdles — from vehicles overturning to police and party workers clashing on several spots — in reaching the capital.

Once he arrived at the judicial complex after the stipulated time, the clashes forced him to leave the premises of the complex.

Due to the violence that erupted inside the complex, the judge allowed the former prime minister to mark his attendance from his car and exempted him from attending the hearing in the courtroom.

While PTI workers clashed with police and caused damage to public property, law enforcers briefly detained the PTI chief's chief of staff, Shibli Faraz.

PTI workers also set fire to 10 police motorcycles outside the judicial complex and overturned a police officer's car.

Today's hearing

When Judge Iqbal arrived at the courtroom, Khan's lawyer, Gohar Ali, informed him that the PTI chief had arrived at the judicial complex, but he was facing hurdles in coming to the courtroom.

"No issues, let him come if he wants to. God have mercy, he is unable to reach [here]," the judge said, as he noted that he would wait for the PTI chief to appear.

The lawyer also told the judge that it wasn't Khan's fault that workers accompanied him.

Then Judge Iqbal said that the election commission's lawyers should take notice of what was happening inside the premises of the complex. He said the hearing would begin once Khan arrives and left for his chambers.

When he came back to the courtroom, Babar Awan told the judge that Khan's attendance should be marked in his car as the situation was tense outside.

The judge said if the attendance was marked in that manner, then what would happen during the hearing? As the PTI pressed for it, the judge allowed Khan's attendance to be marked in his car.

Due to the turmoil, the court sought suggestions from the parties on whether the hearing should be adjourned.

Khan's lawyer Haris said that the PTI chief could not be indicted today. The election commission's lawyer said that the time of the hearing should also be decided.

Judge Iqbal hoped the next hearing would be held at the F-8 Kacheri. He then adjourned the hearing for a while.

When the hearing resumed, SP Dr Sami Malik reached the courtroom and in response to the judge's query about Khan's undertaking, said he is unaware of whether the PTI chief signed the document or not.

Harris told the court that the SP took the file from him. At this, the SP said the signed document was given to Shibli Faraz. He added that he was hurt and did not have the signed document.

The judge then said that this was a very important decision and directed the police officer to find the document.

Harris alleged that the SP was lying. At this, the judge said, "he does not want a war and directed the parties to take things forward smoothly".

Then, the judge adjourned the hearing briefly as the SP exited the courtroom to find the paper.

‘They don’t want me to reach court’

Khan also spoke with the party's Secretary-General Asad Umar telling him that it took him 4:45 hours to reach the court from Islamabad Toll Plaza and he was waiting outside the judicial complex for the last 15 minutes. 

"I am trying my best but there’s too much chaos here. They [police] resorted to tear gas and created hurdles for me. It seems they don’t want me to reach the court. Despite all this, I am standing here for the last 15 minutes. We are trying to get in," the former prime minister tells Asad Umar.

The telephonic conversation was shared by the PTI on their official social media channels.

Arrest 'clear'

When Khan was en route to the capital, the Punjab Police resumed an operation at the PTI chief's residence, broke into his house, and arrested several party workers in the act.

In response, the former prime minister said it was "clear" that despite having gotten "bail" in the cases lodged against him, the Pakistan Democratic Movement-led government intends to arrest him.

"Despite knowing their malafide intentions, I am proceeding to Islamabad & the court bec[ause] I believe in rule of law. But ill intent of this cabal of crooks shd be clear to all."

"It is also obvious now that the entire siege of Lahore was not about ensuring I appear before the court in a case but was intended to take me away to prison so that I am unable to lead our election campaign," he added.

In another tweet, he added: "Meanwhile Punjab police have led an assault on my house in Zaman Park where Bushra Begum is alone. Under what law are they doing this?"

"This is part of the London Plan where commitments were made to bring absconder Nawaz Sharif to power as quid pro quo for agreeing to one appointment," he added.

Security arrangements

Meanwhile, in an update on the traffic advisory for today, the Islamabad police alerted citizens of possible roadblocks and detours due to traffic disruption amid tight security arrangements around the G-11 judicial complex.

In a tweet, the Islamabad police advised citizens to take alternative routes.

Earlier on Friday night, the Islamabad police's spokesperson said that Section 144 (ban on public gatherings and display of weapons) has been imposed in the federal capital.

Private companies, security guards, and individuals have been prohibited from carrying weapons, the spokesperson said, asking the citizens to carry necessary documents — including car proof of ownership — while travelling.

For the traffic plan, the police asked the citizens to avoid unnecessary travel from Sector G-11/1 and G-10/1, the spokesperson, said, adding that citizens should also cooperate with police during checking.

To ensure security, the police have also placed containers around the judicial complex.

'Route to courts turned into Gaza'

Meanwhile, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry demanded of the government to remove roadblocks from the intracity routes leading to the court in Islamabad immediately to ensure the free flow of traffic.

"Let there be some room for Constitution and the law in the country," he said.

"The route to the courts has been turned into Gaza," he wrote on Twitter, adding that writ petitions would immediately be filed in the Islamabad High Court.

He condemned the restrictive administrative measures as "police terrorism".

What is the Toshakhana case?

Under the rules governing "Toshakhana" — a Persian word meaning "treasure house" — government officials can keep gifts if they have a low worth, while they must pay a dramatically reduced fee to the government for extravagant items.

The Toshakhana is under the microscope ever since the emergence of the allegations that Imran Khan purchased the gifts he received as prime minister at throwaway rates and sold them off in the open market for staggering profits.

In October last year, the former prime minister was barred from holding public office after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) found him guilty of unlawfully selling gifts from foreign dignitaries and heads of state.

The 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician was accused of misusing his 2018 to 2022 premiership to buy and sell gifts in state possession that were received during visits abroad and worth more than Rs140 million ($635,000).

The gifts included watches given by a royal family, according to government officials, who have alleged previously that Khan's aides sold them in Dubai.

The gifts included seven wristwatches, six made by watchmaker Rolex, and the most expensive a "Master Graff limited edition" valued at 85 million Pakistani rupees ($385,000).

The election commission's order had said Imran stood disqualified under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution.

Following the order, the election watchdog moved the Islamabad sessions court and sought criminal proceedings against him — and the PTI chief has missed several hearings.