Saturday, August 05, 2023

Guilty of graft: Imran Khan arrested after court jails him for 3 years in Toshakhana case

Police sources say PTI chief has been shifted to Attock Jail after undergoing medical examination

Pakistans former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is facing terrorism charges, appears in court to extend pre-arrest bail, in Islamabad, Pakistan September 1, 2022. — Reuters
Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is facing terrorism charges, appears in court to extend pre-arrest bail, in Islamabad, Pakistan September 1, 2022. — Reuters
  • Trial court convicts Khan for corrupt practices linked to Toshakhana.
  • It hands Khan three years in jail along with fine of Rs100,000.
  • Khan's legal team says they would be filing immediate appeal.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan was arrested from his Zaman Park residence in Lahore soon after being convicted in the Toshakhana case on Saturday and was taken to Islamabad, sources said Saturday. 

In a major development, a district and sessions court in the federal capital convicted the former prime minister for corrupt practices related to the state gift depository — allegations which he denies.

The 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician was accused of misusing his premiership to buy and sell gifts in state possession that were received during visits abroad and worth more than 140 million Pakistani rupees ($635,000).

Rejecting Khan's petition seeking inadmissibility of the case, Additional and Sessions Judge Humayun Dilawar sentenced the former prime minister to three-year imprisonment.

"Charges of misdeclaration of assets have been proven against PTI chairman," Judge Dilawar mentioned in his judgment.

He then handed Khan three years in jail along with a fine of Rs100,000, while issuing an arrest warrant for his immediate arrest.

According to police sources, the PTI chief was shifted to Attock Jail and his medical examination was conducted as per the jail manual.

Khan's legal team said they would be filing an immediate appeal.

Legal experts say a conviction in the case could end Khan's chances of participating in the upcoming national elections.

‘Dishonest, cheater’

In his short order, ADSJ Dilawar declared that application against the reference filed by the ECP was maintainable on the ground that "nobody argued [the] application filed by [the] accused questioning [the] maintainability of [the] complaint... on the basis of earlier findings in [the] order dated 05.05.2023 and 08.07.2023 the said application is dismissed."

Furthermore, he wrote that the court found the ECP's arguments "confidence-inspiring, well-knitted" and corroborated by evidence.

"So, the charge against the accused has successfully been proven that [the] accused has committed [the] 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 the years 2018-2019, 2019-2020 and making and publishing a false statement and submitting false and incorrect declaration in material particular relating to Form-8 for the year 2020-2021."

The order further declared that Khan was guilty of corrupt practices by hiding the benefits he accrued from the national exchequer wilfully and intentionally.

"He cheated while providing information about gifts he obtained from Toshakhana which later proved to be false and inaccurate. His dishonesty has been established beyond doubt."

Convicting the PTI chairman under section 174 of The Election Act 2017, the judge sentenced him to three years of imprisonment, with a fine of Rs.100,000.

The former prime minister had challenged the allegations in the Toshakhana case, at several forums including the Supreme Court and Islamabad High Court (IHC).

The trial court had summoned Khan in his personal capacity today (Saturday) for a Toshakhana case hearing after the high court had rejected his pleas challenging the maintainability order.

On Friday, the IHC also turned down Khan's request to transfer the case to another court and directed Judge Dilawar to continue hearing the case.

A timeline of Toshakhana case

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.

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 PTI chairman, stating that he failed to prove their “relevance” in the criminal proceedings against him. It was also challenged in the high court.

However, the PTI chairman again moved the high court seeking a stay and transfer of the case to another court.

On August 4, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq referred the matter back to the trial court with a direction to re-examine the jurisdiction and any procedure lapse in the filing of the complaint by the Election Commission.

The chief justice decided four petitions by Imran Khan against jurisdiction, alleged defective filing of the complaint, transfer of the case and the controversial Facebook posts of the judge.

Today, when ADSJ Humayun Dilawar resumed the hearing, no representative of the PTI chairman appeared before him. The court then adjourned the hearing multiple times and reserved the verdict after no one from the defence team appeared.

Later, the judge announced the verdict, stating that the PTI chief has been found guilty of corrupt practices and sentenced him to three years in jail.

What is Toshakahana 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 a 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), was also among the gifts.

A reference was forwarded by National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf to the Election Commission asking it to probe the matter.

In October 2022, the electoral body declared the former premier guilty of corrupt practices and filed a complaint in an Islamabad court.