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Sunday March 03, 2024

Toshakhana case: IHC reserves ruling on Imran Khan's plea against conviction

Former premier was sentenced to three years by Islamabad trial court for being involved in "corrupt practices"

December 11, 2023
Former prime minister Imran Khan arrives at an Islamabad court for a hearing in this file photo. —AFP
Former prime minister Imran Khan arrives at an Islamabad court for a hearing in this file photo. —AFP

ISLAMABAD: A two-member bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) Monday reserved its verdict on former prime minister Imran Khan's plea against conviction in the Toshakhana case.

Khan, disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for five years, had filed a plea seeking suspension of the Islamabad trial court verdict which had sentenced him to three years after it found the former prime minister "guilty of corrupt practices" for concealing details of state gifts that he received as prime minister.

A two-member bench, comprising IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, conducted the hearing today in response to the former Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman's plea against the trial court verdict.

In October this year, the ex-premier —  who was removed from power via a no-confidence motion in April last year — challenged the trial verdict in the IHC, however, later he sought withdrawal of the appeal since his petition in the same case was pending before the Lahore High Court (LHC).

However, the IHC rejected his withdrawal petition last week.

During the hearing today, Khan's lawyer Latif Khosa appeared in court while Advocate Amjad Parvez appeared on behalf of the electoral body.

Khosa, in his arguments, told the court that he was refused to attend the hearing when he went to Adiala jail. He said he has the right to be present on behalf of his client.

At this, Justice Farooq asked if he contacted the judge of the court concerned in this matter. Khosa said that he, including his staff, were stopped and ridiculed.

Justice Farooq told Khosa that he would inform the registrar about this matter.

ECP's lawyer then raised an objection on the same plea filed in the Lahore High Court (LHC), saying that they had learned about the petition challenging ECP's disqualification notification.

Parvez said that the LHC's single bench had forwarded the matter to the five-member after hearing it. He requested that this petition was not admissible in this court.

An appeal was filed on August 8 to suspend the trial in the Toshakhana case and the verdict was announced on August 28, said the ECP lawyer. He added that one month and eight days after the verdict, a separate petition for suspension of the verdict was filed.

What is Toshakhana?

Established in 1974, Toshakhana — a Persian word meaning "treasure house" — 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 as a goodwill gesture.

It has valuables ranging from bulletproof cars, gold-plated souvenirs, and expensive paintings to watches, ornaments, rugs, and swords.

Under the rules governing Toshakhana, 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 case

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

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.

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

A reference was forwarded by National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf to the Election Commission asking it to probe the matter.

In October 2022, the electoral body declared the former premier guilty of corrupt practices.