Court sentences PTI chief to jail in Toshakhana case

ISLAMABAD:

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan was arrested on Saturday shortly after the trial court hearing the Toshakhana case declared him guilty and sentenced him to three years in jail.

The court had ordered the immediate arrest of the PTI chairperson and also imposed a fine of Rs100,000.

Shortly after the decision, the party’s Punjab chapter took to Twitter to state that the former premier is being shifted to Kot Lakhpat Jail.

The verdict, issued by Additional District and Sessions Judge Humayun Dilawar, comes amid the PTI chief’s contentions on both the maintainability of the case and repeated transfer requests based on percieved biasness of the judge.

A day after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed the PTI chief’s legal team to take up the matter of maintainability with the trial court again, Justice Dilawar had sought arguments on maintainability. He had also warned the PTI chief’s legal team to present final arguments otherwise the decision would be announced today (Saturday).

When the trial court took up the matter today at 8.30am the PTI chief’s senior legal representatives were absent. The court took three recesses before announcing the verdict sometime past noon.

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 for the transfer of this case from your court, he said.

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

In his ruling, Justice Dilawar said that the charges against Imran had been proven.

Issuing the verdict, the trial court declared the PTI chief guilty of corrupt practices and of making an “incorrect” declaration before the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

“The court finds its more than convincing that the complainant (ECP) had provided confidence-inspiring, well-knitted and corroborated evidence, and so the charge against the accused has successfully been proven that the accused has committed 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 years 2018-2019 and 2019-2020,” wrote Justice Dilawar in the short order.

The Islamabad inspector-general of police (IGP) was instructed to ensure immediate implementation of arrest warrants.

The Toshakhana case was filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) against the PTI chief for “deliberately concealing” the gifts he received during his term as the prime minister and retained them from the Toshakhana.

The ECP had already presented its final arguments in the case during earlier hearings.

ECP lawyer Amjad Parvez had argued that the PTI chief had admitted the charge in his statement to the court, therefore, the prosecution did not need to prove the case.

He said that the accused had admitted that the gifts were taken from Toshakhana, adding that the PTI chief claimed his tax returns would prove that he did not commit dishonesty.

However, the lawyer continued, the PTI chief’s tax returns had nothing to do with the case. He said that the PTI chief submitted a list of four witnesses who were tax consultants, therefore, it was rejected.

Parvez further argued that it was unbelievable that the PTI chairman did not have a single car or jewellery. “In four years, the PTI chairman had only four goats. Is it acceptable?”

‘Arrest’

Shortly after the judgement was given, reports of the PTI chief’s arrest were circulated from the party leadership in Punjab.

It appeared that the former premier was taken into custoday today without resistance unlike previous incidents wherein Zaman Park would be surrounded by PTI supporters at threat of arrest.

Imran was last arrested on May 11, when he was detained by the paramilitary Rangers from the premises of a court in Islamabad, where he had appeared for proceedings in the Al-Qadir case.

The arrest had prompted widespread riots and protests accross the country, leading to an uproar within the civil-military establishment, which vowed to deal with vandals who resorted to attacking army installations with an iron hand.

PTI chief’s appeal

Meanwhile, the PTI chief once again approached the Supreme Court this morning seeking the Toshakhana case’s transfer to another court.

He has repeatedly approached the IHC challenging the jurisdiction of the additional district and sessions judge for trying the case and raising other questions against its order of rejecting his right to defence in the case, but to no avail.

Today, while the hearing went on in the trial court, the PTI chief’s lawyers submitted before the appex court that the IHC has forwarded the case to the same court for hearing against which we have raised objections.

The petition further contended that the IHC did not hear the PTI chief’s objections against the judge on merit but it did observe that the trial court judge did not hear the petitioner’s arguments on the maintainability of the case in the proper manner.

This observation lends credibility to the petitioner’s claim that the judge is biased against him and in favour of the prosecution, contended the petition.

Among other contentions, the PTI chief’s legal team has also objected to Justice Dilawar’s rejection of the defendant’s witness list.

Rejecting the PTI chief’s latest request for transferring the Toshakhana case to another court, IHC Chief justice Aamer Farooq had noted that there were decisions of the higher courts that the case could be transferred only on the basis of concrete reasons and evidence.

On the matter of some alleged Facebook posts against the PTI chief from Judge Dilawar’s account, the court had said that ADSJ Humayun Dilawar denied the posts attributed to him. It also said that the ECP lawyer also said that the posts attributed to the judge were fake.

The order directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to inquire into the matter of the alleged posts on the ADSJ’s Facebook account, and furnish a report to the IHC deputy registrar within a fortnight.

In the meantime the IHC forwarded the case to the same court to hear directing Judge Dilawar to decide on the matter of maintainability again.

The apex court was earlier informed by the ECP’s lawyer that the trial court could not issue a verdict before the IHC gave its decision on maintainability and transfer issues.


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