Thursday, January 05, 2023
A banking court in Islamabad on Thursday directed Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan to ensure his presence before the investigation officer (IO) in the prohibited funding case being pursued against his party.
In the bail plea, the PTI chief’s lawyers had urged the court to stop the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from arresting Khan in the case pertaining to financial irregularities in the party’s funding.
Today, the directive was issued as the court announced a reserved verdict on Khan's plea for an extension in pre-arrest bail.
At the outset of the hearing, Special Prosecutor Rizwan Abbasi requested the court to reject the former premier's plea, while the petitioner's lawyer asked the court to give a two-week extension on medical grounds.
Khan's lawyer also requested an exemption for the PTI chief to appear before the court for today's hearing.
The prosecutor maintained that Khan has been politically active since the assassination bid on his life during PTI's long march rally in Wazirabad in November.
"He is running the political affairs but doesn't appear in the court," Abbasi said while requesting the court to reject his plea for exemption.
He claimed that Khan neither appeared in the court nor joined the probe, asking the court to tell the investigation officer to visit the PTI chief at his Zaman Park residence in Lahore.
When asked about the reason for Khan's absence from investigations, his lawyer said that there were many reasons he couldn't appear before the investigation officer despite "his willingness".
He said that Khan was injured in an assassination bid and he would appear before IO as soon as the doctors allow him.
At this, prosecutor Abbasi maintained that the investigation officer could not go to Lahore for interrogation.
"Imran Khan appears on TV but not in the courts," Rizwan said while requesting the court to take back the decision of Khan's interim bail.
Judge Rakhshanda Shaheen turned down the request by Khan's lawyer to interrogate the former premier at his Zaman Park residence in Lahore.
"The investigation officer can hold investigations wherever and however he wants, the court will not interfere," the judge remarked.
Meanwhile, the judge asked Khan's lawyer to assist the court with why shouldn't it withdraw the interim bail.
She directed Khan to join the probe to ensure his presence before the IO under any circumstances and adjourned the hearing till January 31.
FIA kickstarted its countrywide investigation into the utilisation of funds from “prohibited” sources by PTI after an Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) ruling that the party secured illegal donations, in August 2022.
On August 2, 2022, the ECP in a unanimous verdict said it had found that the PTI received prohibited funding.
The commission found that donations were taken from America, Australia, Canada and the UAE.
The case — earlier referred to as a "foreign funding" case — was filed in November 2014 when the party’s founding member Akbar S Babar alleged gross financial irregularities in the party’s funding from both Pakistan and abroad.