Wednesday April 17, 2024

Another one bites the dust: Imran jailed for three years in Toshakhana graft case

Court declares PTI chief guilty of corrupt practices for submitting false statements about gifts

By Arfa Feroz Zake & Arshad Dogar & Khalid Iqbal & Shakeel Anjum
August 06, 2023
Amid heavy security, Imran Khan (centre) arrives for his court hearing in Islamabad on Friday. — AFP/File
Amid heavy security, Imran Khan (centre) arrives for his court hearing in Islamabad on Friday. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan was arrested from his Zaman Park Lahore residence soon after being convicted in the Toshakhana case on Saturday, and sent to Attock Jail.

A district and sessions court in the federal capital convicted the former prime minister for corrupt practices related to the state gift depository, though he denied allegations.

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

Rejecting Khan’s petition seeking inadmissibility of the case, Additional District and Sessions Judge Humayun Dilawar sentenced him to three-year imprisonment. “Charges of misdeclaration of assets have been proven against the PTI chairman,” the judge said in his verdict.

He then handed Khan three years in jail along with a fine of Rs100,000, while issuing a warrant for his immediate arrest. The PTI chairmen will have to spend six months more in jail if he failed to pay the fine. The court also declared the PTI chairman ineligible to hold any public office for five years.

Following the verdict, Lahore police arrested Imran Khan from his residence in Zaman Park amid tight security. SSP CIA Capt Liaquat Malik led the team with warrants and took out the PTI chief from his house. Imran Khan and his security did not offer any resistance. Heavy contingents of police were deputed at and around Zaman Park. All routes leading to Zaman Park were blocked. Officers of Lahore Police also stopped media persons from coverage. Later the PTI chairman was escorted to Attock via Motorway in a cavalcade and sent to jail there.

According to police sources, the PTI chief was shifted to Attock Jail and his medical examination was conducted as per the jail manual. Sources said he was shifted to jail in strict security, adopted by the Islamabad and the Punjab police with the assistance of Rangers and other paramilitary forces.

The security agencies kept the media in dark by deploying comprehensive security at Adiala Jail and almost no security at Attock Jail.

However, after shifting of Imran Khan, security was enhanced in and around Attock Jail by the federal and provincial establishment, people responsible for the security said and added that special anti-terrorist squad and the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) personnel had been deployed in and around the jail.

Special arrangements were also made at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) hospital for the PTI chief’s medical check-up before sending him to jail, sources said and added that a team of senior was present there to examine his health.

However, he was taken to Attock Jail directly. The jail administration confirmed that Imran Khan had been brought there, and he was kept in a C-class cell as part of his detention after his medical examination. Jail sources said Imran Khan was quite depressed when he was shifted to his cell at about 7:15pm. Attock Jail is considered the most dangerous prison after Mach Jail in Balochistan. In his short order, ADSJ Dilawar declared that application against the reference, filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was maintainable on the ground that “nobody argued [the] application, filed by [the] accused questioning [the] maintainability of [the] complaint... on the basis of earlier findings in [the] order dated 05.05.2023 and 08.07.2023, the said application is dismissed.” Furthermore, he wrote that the court found the ECP’s arguments “confidence-inspiring, well-knitted” and corroborated by evidence. “So, the charge against the accused has successfully been proven that [the] accused has committed [the] offence of corrupt practices by making and publishing false statements/ declaration in respect of assets acquired by way of gifts from Toshakhana and disposed of during the years 2018-2019, 2019-2020 and making and publishing a false statement and submitting false and incorrect declaration in material particular relating to Form-8 for the year 2020-2021.”

The order further declared that Khan was found guilty of corrupt practices for hiding the benefits he accrued from the national exchequer wilfully and intentionally.

“He cheated while providing information about gifts he obtained from Toshakhana which later proved to be false and inaccurate. His dishonesty has been established beyond doubt.”

Convicting the PTI chairman under section 174 of The Election Act 2017, the judge sentenced him to three-year imprisonment, with a fine of Rs100,000.

The trial court had summoned Khan in personal capacity on Saturday after the high court had rejected his pleas challenging the maintainability order. When ADSJ Humayun Dilawar resumed hearing, no representative of the PTI chairman appeared before him. The court then adjourned the hearing multiple times and reserved the verdict after no one from the defence team appeared.

Earlier, before the decision was announced, Imran’s lawyer Khawaja Haris appeared before Judge Dilawar and informed the court that his legal team was barred from entering IHC premises. “We want to file a plea for transfer of the case from your court,” he said.

However, the judge instructed him to either present final arguments before noon or the verdict would be issued.

Later, the judge announced the verdict, stating that the PTI chief had been found guilty of corrupt practices and sentenced him to three years in jail.

Meanwhile, former premier Imran Khan urged his supporters to remain peaceful in a pre-recorded message released after his arrest on Saturday.

“My arrest was expected & I recorded this message before my arrest... I want my party workers to remain peaceful, steadfast and strong,” he said in a video statement posted to social media.