Sunday June 16, 2024

Toshakhana case: Court rejects Imran’s plea against arrest warrants

The court had issued Imran Khan’s arrest warrants due to his continuous absence from the case hearings

By Khalid Iqbal & News Desk
March 07, 2023
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman and ex-premier Imran Khan. —Facebook/Imran Khan
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman and ex-premier Imran Khan. —Facebook/Imran Khan

ISLAMABAD: Additional District and Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal has rejected the request of former prime minister Imran Khan seeking the suspension of the non-bailable arrest warrants in the Toshakhana case.

The court reserved the verdict first and announced a decision later, after a brief hearing of the case here on Monday. The court had issued Imran Khan’s arrest warrants due to his continuous absence from the case hearings.

The judge adjourned the hearing till March 7 (today). Last week, ADSJ Zafar Iqbal issued non-bailable arrest warrants for the PTI chief after he decided not to turn up before the court while attending hearings of three other cases involving prohibited funding, terrorism, and attempted murder filed against him in other local courts located in proximity.

In the judgment issued on Monday, a copy of which is available with The News, ADSJ Iqbal said that Imran had not challenged the arrest warrants issued for him at any forum. The accused was in a position to appear in this court on February 28 after his appearances in other courts, but he wilfully avoided appearing in this court.

“A warrant shall remain enforced until it is cancelled by the court that issued it or until it is executed as per Section 75(2) CrPC,” the court order stated. It said that the warrants had been issued for Imran’s appearance in the trial, but noted that the PTI chief was not present in court even on Monday.

“The accused has not surrendered himself before the court yet, and no application for his appearance today [Monday] is annexed to the [court] record. The accused has not appeared in court to ensure his appearance in the trial in the future; therefore, the application is rejected,” it added.

Two days ago, on Sunday, the federal capital police had gone to Zaman Park in Lahore to arrest PTI Chairman Imran Khan. The Islamabad police had shown court summons to PTI leaders. However, they had to return empty-handed after the PTI chief evaded the arrest.

Subsequently, Imran petitioned the Islamabad Sessions Court, arguing that the withdrawal of warrants would give him “a fair opportunity to appear and defend himself” in the case. The PTI chief is accused of concealing, in his asset declarations, details of the gifts he had retained from the Toshakhana, a repository where presents handed to government officials by foreign officials are kept. Officials are legally allowed to retain gifts provided they pay a pre-assessed amount, typically a fraction of the value of the gift.

Former prime minister Imran Khan’s lawyers, Qaisar Imam, Ali Bukhari, and Barrister Gohar, told the court that their client wanted to be given a way to appear in court. They said the PTI chief had always followed court orders, adding that the police could not detain him if he wished to appear before the court.

“You could have approached the Islamabad High Court for the cancellation of arrest warrants,” the judge asked the PTI counsel. The lawyer responded that the legal team wanted to approach the sessions court for the cancellation of warrants.

During media talk, Imran’s lawyer, Ali Bukhari, said that his client will appear in court on Tuesday. “On February 28, my client had come here to the Judicial Complex to appear in the high court. My client wanted to appear in court, but Imran Khan badly failed to find a way to approach the courtroom on this occasion.”

The PTI chairman has also approached the Lahore High Court (LHC) for bail in different cases about the Toshakhana reference, vandalism at the Islamabad Judicial Complex, and violence outside the Islamabad High Court (IHC). But the LHC registrar has raised objections to Imran’s pleas, saying that complete documents have not been submitted along with the petitions.

PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry, meanwhile, reached Zaman Park with Zulfi Bukhari and said the party had challenged the ban on the PTI chief’s speech and a petition would surface soon in this regard.

Fawad added these narrow-minded persons should not be in powerful positions mentioning the decision of the Islamabad additional judge was legally incorrect and it was being challenged in the Islamabad High Court.

The PTI’s stalwart highlighted that the ban on Imran’s speeches represented the fear circulating within the government quarters and a petition was filed against this decision.

During a press conference, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah claimed that Imran jumped his residence’s wall and escaped to his neighbour’s home to evade arrest.

The minister’s comments came after an Islamabad police team came to Lahore for arresting the PTI chief — but without the court summons. The law enforcers returned without an arrest as the party told them that he “wasn’t home”.

“Yesterday, the team that went to arrest Khan faced a lot of drama. There are rumours that he [Khan] jumped into his neighbours’ house [to hide]. After a while, he surfaced from somewhere and delivered a huge speech,” the minister said.

The minister admitted that if the police wanted to arrest the former prime minister, this wasn’t an appropriate strategy. “The police went there to inform him about the court’s orders. But he is a shameless person.”

Sanaullah added that when the authorities want to arrest and present him before the court, they will do so without hesitation. The interior minister added that Imran misused his authority when it came to Toshakhana gifts.

The minister said that the deposed prime minister — who was ousted from power in April last year and has since been protesting against the government — will have to answer before the court.

“If the court acquits Imran, we will accept it,” Sanaullah said, adding that the government has no desire in arresting him, but he should ensure his appearance before the courts. Berating the PTI chief for the policies during his time in government, the interior minister said: “Imran Khan’s economic policies have led to a fall in dollars.”

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb said that ‘’a foreign-funded agent, a Toshakhana gifts thief’’ was acting like a jackal and hiding behind women and children to avoid arrest for his crimes.

Addressing the media persons here, she said when the police contingent left, the cowardly Imran Khan came out and started bragging and abusing the institutions. Castigating, Imran Khan, she said this person had held the law and Constitution of Pakistan hostage.

The minister observed that despite all his actions, he was being treated by the justice system leniently. She said it was clear to everyone that the louder, he would scream, the sooner he would get relief.

She said Imran was aware that if he would attack, bully and threaten the Judiciary, he would get bail. She said this person did not appear in court because he knew that he was a foreign agent and involved in the theft of the Toshakhana gifts.

She said that Imran Khan was responsible for the swindling of the national exchequer and pushed the country towards inflation. The minister said that Imran was fully aware that the day he would appear in court, he would be arrested as he had committed crimes.

“When the police come to arrest him, he starts screaming and takes shelter behind women and children using them as a human shield,” she added. She said that it was like an example of a person who confessed to his theft but dared the law to arrest him.

She said that the entire system was at his mercy, no one could arrest him and the courts could not summon him. She said that it was strange that a person used derogatory language against the national institutions but he got relief very quickly.

The minister challenged him that if he had not committed any crime, he should appear in court and face the law of the land. Taking a dig at Imran she said “Samjhauta Express” was ready for departure at Zaman Park but no one was ready to board it, rather she said it was not Samjhauta Express but he was begging for NRO which the foreign agent needed to escape accountability.

“The foreign-funded agent needs an NRO to escape punishment for the crimes he had committed,” she maintained. The minister said that Imran should have thought about this before stealing watches and committing robberies at Toshakhana and getting prohibited foreign funding and involving in money laundering through his employees.

Minister of State for Petroleum Dr Musadik Malik, meanwhile, said PTI chairman Imran Khan was using a “human shield” to avoid his arrest, creating a hurdle in the smooth implementation of court summons in the Toshakhana case.

Addressing a news conference here, the minister said Imran Khan during his three-and-a-half-year rule had been making tall claims of transforming the country into a true welfare state on the pattern of the state of Madina, but now contrary to it, he showed a feudal mindset under which any influential personality was considered above the law.

“There was no difference between the mighty and weak in the Riasat-e-Madina. But Imran Khan, when police officials reached to implement the court order, used a human shield to avoid his arrest,” he said.

He said it was unfortunate that a person, who remained the Prime Minister of Pakistan, was not abiding by the country’s laws and court orders, adding that Imran’s this act was tantamount to challenging the writ of the state.

Musadik said the PTI chief was hurling threats to state institutions to protect his corrupt practices and wanted interference of institutions in each other’s work. He said Imran was constantly skipping court proceedings and making provocative statements to create disturbance in the working of the state institutions.

The minister recalled that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) leader Nawaz Sharif had been disqualified and removed from the party’s top slot for not getting a salary from his son’s company even though it [salary] was justified.

He said the incumbent coalition government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, believed in the Charter of Democracy and take along all political parties for the progress and prosperity of the country, but it would not protect the corrupt practices committed by the PTI chairman.