ECP’s plea seeking early hearing of Toshakhana case dismissed

Former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan gesture at the crowd during a public gathering in this undated image. — Instagram/@imrankhan.pti
Former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan gesture at the crowd during a public gathering in this undated image. — Instagram/@imrankhan.pti

ISLAMABAD: A district and sessions court on Tuesday dismissed the petition filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) seeking an early hearing of the Toshakhana case.

Additional Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal, announcing the verdict reserved 10 minutes earlier, said the hearing of the case will be held on April 29 — which was decided initially on March 30.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan is facing charges of corrupt practices related to the state gift depository — the allegation he denies.

In October last year, Khan was barred from holding public office after the ECP found him guilty of unlawfully selling gifts from foreign dignitaries and heads of state.

The trial court had issued an arrest warrant for the PTI chief in March due to his continuous absence, despite summons for indictment in the case.

The order of arrest, however, was canceled by the trial court a few days later, over PTI’s insistence that Khan’s life was in danger and he needed security. The court had adjourned the hearing till March 30 and ordered Khan to ensure his presence.

However, during the last hearing on March 30, the disposed prime minister — who was ousted from the prime minister’s office in April last year — was granted relief till April 29 despite his absence.

At the outset of today’s hearing, the court asked the lawyers about their take on the petition filed by the commission.

Imran Khan’s lawyers Khawaja Haris and Faisal Chaudhry said there was no need for an early hearing and termed it a “waste of resources”.

They argued that the hearing was adjourned till April 29 after consultation with the ECP; however, after two days the electoral body decided that it want to get this hearing fixed earlier.

Meanwhile, Khawaja Haris added that decision, in this case, should be taken without the influence of the ECP alleging that the commission’s conduct is “discriminatory” towards Khan. 

“The ECP’s interference in getting the hearing fixed earlier is equivalent to influencing the decision in this case as it wants to indict the PTI chief,” he added.

On the other hand, ECP lawyer Amjad Pervaiz said Khan’s counsels were accusing the electoral body of a “discriminatory attitude”, adding that their request was in line with Supreme Court’s ruling stating that the trial court should conclude cases regarding corrupt practices within three months.

“The Supreme Court has said that once a complaint is registered the case should be wrapped up within three months,” he said, adding the ECP’s plea was registered in light of the apex court’s order.

After hearing the arguments from both sides the additional sessions judge dismissed the ECP petition and decided to conduct the hearing on the pre-scheduled date — April 29.

Toshakhana case

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 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 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 election commission’s order had said Imran stood disqualified under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution.

Following the order, the election watchdog moved the Islamabad sessions court and sought criminal proceedings against him — and the PTI chief has missed several hearings. 

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