Toshakhana case: Imran Khan challenges IHC's verdict in SC

IHC committed a legal error by sending back the case to Judge Dilawar, PTI chief argues in petition

Maryam Nawaz
Security personnel escort former prime minister Imran Khan as he arrives to appear before the Lahore High Court on March 17, 2023. — AFP
Security personnel escort former prime minister Imran Khan as he arrives to appear before the Lahore High Court on March 17, 2023. — AFP

  • Khan's legal team petitions apex court to annul IHC order.
  • PTI chief requests top court to issue stay order on trial.
  • Reserving judgement today will be against law, says PTI lawyer.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) legal team Saturday approached the Supreme Court (SC) against the order issued by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in the Toshakhana case against Imran Khan, a day after the high court rejected the former prime minister's plea for the transfer of the case.

On Friday, the IHC declared the sessions court's verdict on the maintainability verdict of the Toshakhana case against the PTI chief in a temporary relief to him but rejected his request to transfer the case to another court.

Today, his lawyer Advocate Khawaja Haris filed a formal application in the SC against the IHC's decision, with a diary number attached to the petition.

In his appeal, the PTI chairman moved the SC — for a third time — to annul the high court's order directing Khan to reappear in the court of Additional Sessions Judge Humayun Dilawar on August 4.

Khan's legal team had previously filed eight petitions in the IHC, challenging Judge Dilawar's ruling on the maintainability of the case, a request for transfer of the case to another court on grounds that the judge was rushing the case and was too biased, and other.

After the IHC's verdict on his pleas, Khan moved the apex to issue a stay order on the trial among other requests made in the fresh petition filed today. 

He requested that the trial court be restrained from holding proceedings till a verdict on the new petition is announced.

The petition further argued that the trial judge had "improperly and hastily" declared the Toshakhana case arguable, and that the IHC committed a legal error by sending back the case to Judge Dilawar.

"How can the judge, who has declared a case maintainable, freely rehear it," the petition questioned, declaring that IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq had deprived the petitioner of his fundamental rights in the latest order.

It may be noted that the SC had dismissed Khan's petition against trial proceedings in the Toshakhana case yesterday, following his withdrawal of the said plea.

"The trial court cannot decide on the Toshakhana case until the final decision of the High Court," a three-member bench of the SC ruled.

Earlier this week, the apex court had turned away Khan, asking him to await a verdict from the IHC.

"We believe that the high court can issue a better order than us. It is possible that it will give the order to stop the trial tomorrow," he had said on Wednesday.

'Cannot present closing arguments'

Commenting on the IHC order last night on Geo News' programme 'Naya Pakistan', Advocate Gohar said that they had challenged two orders of the trial court.

"The court has accepted our point that the trial court did not decide according to law," he remarked, adding, however, there are concerns that the case was sent back to the same judge.

He had announced that they would appeal against the IHC order in the SC.

He further added that the matter of the case transfer request was not discussed yesterday and other petitions are pending in the High Court.

When asked their reactions if the trial court judge still declared the case maintainable and reserved the decision, it will not be in accordance with the law.

"Our cross-examination of the Election Commission's witnesses has not been completed. First, the cross-examination of their witnesses should be completed, then our witnesses should come in our favour, he said.

If the court were to declare the case admissible, we will not be in the position of final arguments in the case, he said.

Timeline of recent events

On October 21, 2022, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) maintained that the former prime minister made “false statements and incorrect declarations” about the gifts and disqualified him under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution.

Subsequently, the election watchdog moved a sessions court in the federal capital, seeking criminal proceedings against the PTI chief for allegedly misleading the ECP regarding gifts received from foreign dignitaries while he was in office.

The trial court indicted the PTI chairman on May 10, and rejected his petition to declare the case inadmissible.

On July 4, the IHC overturned the trial court's ruling and directed it to rehear the petitioner and decide the matter within seven days.

On July 8, ADSJ Humayun Dilawar declared the Toshakhana case against Khan as maintainable, which was again challenged in the IHC.

Currently, the trial is underway at the sessions court and is about to conclude.

During the trial proceedings, Khan’s lawyers also accused the presiding judge of bias on the basis of his Facebook posts and sought the transfer of the case.

On August 2, the trial court rejected the list of witnesses presented by the PTI chairman, stating that he failed to prove their “relevance” in the criminal proceedings against him. It was also challenged in the high court.

The 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 has been under the microscope ever since the emergence of the allegations that 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.

Moreover, seven wristwatches, six made by watchmaker Rolex, and the most expensive a "Master Graff limited edition" valued at 85 million Pakistani rupees ($385,000), were also among the gifts.

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