Friday May 24, 2024

Court upholds Toshakhana case maintainability

Rejects Imran’s plea to adjourn case; hearing to be held on 12th

By Asim Javed & Khalid Iqbal
July 09, 2023
A photograph of the Toshakhana gifts received by PTI Chairman Imran Khan. — Geo News
A photograph of the Toshakhana gifts received by PTI Chairman Imran Khan. — Geo News

ISLAMABAD. A local court on Saturday upheld the maintainability of the Toshakhana case against former prime minister Imran Khan.

Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ), Islamabad, Humayun Dilawar, announced the reserved verdict, with the hearing set to take place on July 12. The witnesses have also been summoned on the same day.

The court has rejected the plea filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s lawyer Gohar Khan, seeking an adjournment of the case till Monday.

During the hearing, the judge showed annoyance and, giving strong remarks, said that he had several other cases which were pending due to the Toshakhana case. Public is watching the case, he added.

The court adjourned further hearing of the case till July 12, 2023.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had, on October 21 last year, disqualified the former prime minister in the Toshakhana reference under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution for making “false statements and incorrect declaration”.

A trial court then, in May this year, rejected the petition of Imran Khan, challenging the maintainability of the reference.

Not only that, but the court also indicted the PTI chief, who denied all the allegations levelled against him.

The PTI chief then challenged the trial court’s decision before the Islamabad High Court (IHC), which sent the case back to the trial court for re-examination within a span of seven days. Imran has not appeared before the court for the hearings that have taken place after the IHC’s orders despite Judge Dilawar’s repeated summons.

In Saturday’s hearing, the ECP lawyer said that the PTI chief has been seeking exemptions from hearing and using “delaying” tactics.

“His arguments have already been presented by his legal counsel,” the lawyer contested.

The judge noted that the IHC had granted such a “big relief” to the PTI chief.

At this, the former prime minister’s lawyer Gohar Khan said the high court did not provide relief; instead, it sent the matter back to the trial court for re-examination. “And I don’t agree with this.”

Gohar said the PTI chairman was being deprived of his right, adding that there was still time till July 12. The PTI lawyer said that it would be an injustice if the decision was announced in haste, pleading the court to adjourn the hearing till Monday.

The judge said that Khawaja Haris was a senior lawyer but, despite giving an undertaking, he did not appear before the court.

He said the court had been showing an unprecedented leniency in Toshakhana case.

“Mention a single hearing in which Imran Khan was present,” he added.

The judge then rejected the plea to adjourn the hearing till Monday.

Talking to journalists after the hearing, Gohar said he was upset with the decision and called it the “murder of justice”.

“We had informed the court that if our arguments were not heard, then we would approach the higher courts,” he said, claiming that the court announced the verdict after a “10-minute hearing”.

“We will go to higher courts against this verdict.”

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 a 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.

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 were 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 Imran 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 ECP order had said Imran stood disqualified under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution.