Imran Khan approaches Pak court seeking suspension of trial court’s verdict in Toshakhana corruption case

Imran Khan on Thursday approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) seeking suspension of the trial court’s verdict in the Toshakhana corruption case more than a month after it suspended the jailed former prime minister’s three-year sentence for concealing details of state gifts.

Khan, who turned 71 on Thursday, was arrested on August 5, 2023, and shifted to Attock jail after Additional District and Sessions Judge Humayun Dilawar sentenced him to three years in prison in the Toshakhana (national treasury gifts) graft case. The court had found the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief guilty of “corrupt practices”.

The Supreme Court later acknowledged “procedural defects” in Khan’s conviction by the trial court.

On August 28, the IHC suspended Khan’s sentence in the Toshakhana case but the PTI chief was not released because he was arrested in the cipher case for allegedly violating the Official Secrets Act by disclosing a cable sent by Pakistan’s embassy in Washington last year in March. He has since remained behind bars on judicial remand, which has been extended until October 10.

On September 26, Khan was shifted to Adiala jail in Rawalpindi from Attock jail in Punjab province following the directives issued by the IHC. Last weekend, the police ramped up security in the vicinity of the Adiala jail by deploying elite commandos and setting up additional security pickets to ensure foolproof measures.

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Khan, through senior lawyer Latif Khosa, on Thursday moved the IHC against the Toshakhana verdict under section 561-A (saving of the inherent power of high court) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The petition’s title stated that it sought “rectification of the order dated August 28 to the extent of suspending the operation of the impugned order along with the sentence as verbally prayed by the learned counsel for the petitioner before this honourable court at the time of arguments”.

The petition urged the court to rectify the “omission of not recording the contention of the learned counsel for the petitioner with regard to the suspension” of the Toshakhana judgment of August 5.

It further requested the IHC that the operation of the same order be “suspended/stayed till final decision of the appeal”. The plea also sought permission to make the state a respondent in the memo of appeal.

“Any other direction or relief which this honourable court deems fit and proper in the indication of grievances aforesaid may also be awarded,” it added.

The petition listed the Election Commission of Pakistan as a respondent in the case and stated that during the course of the arguments, Khan’s counsel Khosa had “specifically requested” the IHC to suspend the operation of the Toshakhana verdict as well as the sentence.

It argued that the language of section 426 (suspension of sentence pending appeals) was “very much clear that the court seized with the matter has the power to suspend the impugned order and the sentence”.

Citing section 561-A of the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure), it said the IHC had the authority to issue orders to “give effect to any order under the Code (CrPC) or to prevent abuse of process of any court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice”.

The plea added that the omission of not the counsel’s contentions before the IHC when urging the suspension of the August 5 trial court verdict and the “subsequent non-mentioning of the same” in the IHC’s order of August 28 was “an omission floating on the face of the order”.

It contended that the omission of arguments has “caused serious prejudice to the rights” of the PTI chief as he has been disqualified from contesting elections by the ECP.

It added that the ECP was “in haste in disqualifying the petition […] notwithstanding the fact that conviction/sentence had not attained finality”.

The plea went on to mention “attempts being made to remove his (sic) from the head of the party and even proceedings to take away the symbol and throw him out of the arena of general elections”.

“The entire leadership of PTI is either incarcerated or amongst the missing persons beside hundreds of false cases registered against loyalists resulting in incarceration and unending ordeal,” it stated.

Separately, the IHC issued notices to respondents on a plea filed by Khan’s wife, Bushra Bibi, wherein she sought protection for her husband.

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq presided over the hearing and issued notices to the respondents in the case.

During the hearing, he observed, “If there is room for it and the court can do something, I will issue an order accordingly.” Khosa appeared as the counsel for Bushra Bibi and urged the court to grant permission to provide Khan with home cooked food.

“Prayers can barely be offered in the cell where the PTI chairman has been kept,” he contended before the court.

“It is our history that whoever becomes the president or prime minister, he later becomes a guest at the Adiala and Attock jails,” Khosa said.

Subsequently, the court issued notices and adjourned the hearing until next week.

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On Monday, Bushra Bibi approached the IHC seeking protection for her husband. She had ex­press­­ed the apprehension that the jail administration might poison the meal of her husband and sought permission for homemade food for the detained PTI chief.

On Tuesday, Naeem Haider Panjutha, spokesman to Khan on legal affairs, had claimed that his client had been moved to a lower-class cell at the Adiala Jail last night and feared the ex-premier’s life was in danger.

Confirming that Bushra Bibi met Imran in Adiala Jail on Tuesday, he claimed there was “danger to Imran Khan’s life”. “Imran can be slow food poisoned … he is being mentally tortured and his movement has been restricted.” Khan has been implicated in scores of cases since his ouster from power in April 2022. Khan and former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi are likely to be indicted on October 9 in the cipher case.