An accountability court sentenced former premier Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi to 14 years imprisonment in the Toshakhana case.
The verdict comes a day after the PTI founder was sentenced to 10 years in the cypher case by a special court established under the Official Secrets Act.
The former premier’s wife, Bushra Bibi, surrendered before the court soon after the verdict was announced. The NAB team, already at the jail, where the hearing was being conducted, took her into custody as soon as she reached.
Accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir presided over the hearing at Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail, where the former prime minister is incarcerated.
Imran and Bushra were also barred from holding any public office for the next 10 years and were fined around Rs1,574 million.
The judge also asked the two to record their statements under Section 342 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and closed the right of cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses.
The couple were indicted in the reference on January 9.
Following the verdict, Imran’s sister Aleema Khan stated that the PTI founder could have gotten into an agreement and eased his legal troubles, but instead, he is standing firm in his resolve to save the nation.
‘Complete destruction of every existing law’
Reacting strongly to the verdict, the PTI termed it as “complete destruction of every law” and claimed the former premier and first lady have faced “yet another kangaroo trial”.
The party further said no right of defence was given to either Imran or Bushra and the case has “no basis” to stand on in any higher court, similar to the cypher trial.
Read List of Toshakhana gifts from 2002 to 2023
Verdict to be challenged
PTI Secretary General Umar Ayub, terming the Toshakhana verdict a “mockery of the law”, stated that the accountability court judgment will be challenged in the high court and vowed to continue the legal battle against the “prevailing injustice”.
He urged party supporters to stay calm and peaceful. “PTI followers have to mobilise themselves in every area and encourage the people to cast their vote on February 8,” said Ayub.
Ayub added that all party workers need to create awareness about PTI’s candidates contesting the elections as independents and help the party win a three-fourth majority.
‘Can never be broken’
PTI lawyer Intazar Hussain Panjutha said the former first lady gave herself up to the authorities and added that “such people can never be broken”.
The counsel said the sentences in the cypher and Toshakhana case will not stand in any court of law as they were announced without properly recording statements under Section 342.
Taking a jibe at Maryam Nawaz, Panjutha said that if it was her instead of Bushra, a hundred of excuses would have been made to avoid the arrest.
The lawyer added that the verdict has elevated the status of the former PM and his wife among the people and that now no power could stop Imran from winning the elections.
PTI counsel Ali Zafar deemed the entire process of the Toskhana proceedings a ‘drama’, and stated that it can not be called a trial.
He said that the sentence, announced abruptly, is similar to the cypher judgment; adding that the court delivered the verdict in a hurry as a petition against the lack of cross-examination was to be heard today by the high court.
“The lawyers of Imran and Bushra were not given a chance for cross-examination, neither the accused were allowed to present any witnesses, nor the statement of the accused was recorded,” said Zafar.
He added that they had expected such a verdict from the court, announcing that the legal team would file an application to receive a copy of todays order along with an appeal against the Toshakhana sentence.
Zafar stated that Article 10-A of the Constitution was violated and the party’s legal team is confident that the sentence will be suspended.
The crux of the accusations revolves around Imran and Bushra allegedly retaining gifts received during their official visits to foreign countries while Imran Khan served as the prime minister. Instead of following the prescribed official protocol by depositing these gifts in the Toshakhana, the couple purportedly kept them and contributed an amount less than the stipulated value into the national treasury.
Bushra, in particular, is accused of holding on to various jewellery items received as gifts during official visits. The list of allegedly retained gifts includes a locket, two rings, two ear tops, and two bracelets received on June 26, 2019. In 2020, she reportedly acquired a diamond-studded gold necklace, ring, bracelet, and ear tops. The list expanded in 2021 with the addition of a necklace, earrings, ring, and bracelet.
Despite repeated requests from the NAB for the return of these gifts, especially the jewellery items, Bushra has allegedly failed to comply. In response, the NAB directed her to appear at the NAB Rawalpindi office on December 11 and bring the specified ornaments with her. Subsequently, Bushra obtained bail until December 13 in this case from the accountability court in Islamabad.