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After IHC order, trial court summons Imran Khan in Toshakhana case tomorrow

Following a short order issued by the Islamabad High Court (IHC), a district and sessions court in the federal capital on Friday summoned former prime minister Imran Khan in his personal capacity tomorrow (Saturday) in the Toshakhana case.

The trial court in Islamabad resumed hearing the Toshakhana reference filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman as the IHC set aside the sessions court’s previous ruling in the case today.

In his short order, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq instructed the local court to decide the matter again after hearing the case.

At the outset of today’s hearing, the local court’s judge Humayun Dilawar asked Barrister Gohar Ali — Imran Khan’s counsel — about updates on the case in the high court.

“After approving the plea relating to the maintainability matter, the high court again sent the case to the sessions court,” replied the lawyer.

He pleaded with the court to grant an exemption to his client from personnel appearance.

Meanwhile, Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) lawyer Amjad Parvez said that the trial court had issued notices to the relevant parties in the reference filed by the election watchdog for the trail of the deposed prime minister — who was removed from the office via a no-confidence motion in April last year — next week, adding that the IHC did not issue stay order over the matter.

“The PTI chairman’s requests for transfer of case has also been rejected,” Parvez added. In addition to this, directions have been given to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) regarding the fake Facebook posts, he said.

“And what about those who have floated fake Facebook posts?” the judge asked.

“You fall in love with those who wave Facebook posts,” the ECP counsel quipped, leaving the court filled with laughter.

The ECP’s counsel has completed its arguments, the judge observed and directed Khan’s lawyer to give his arguments at 8:30am tomorrow (Friday).

The court will reserve its verdict in the case if the defendant’s counsel does not join the hearing tomorrow, warned the judge.      

IHC voids sessions court’s verdict

Earlier today, the IHC declared the sessions court’s maintainability verdict in the Toshakhana case “void”.

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq gave the court’s ruling on eight petitions of the PTI chairman after arguments by both parties — which were completed yesterday while the judgment was reserved.

The court, however, rejected the PTI chairman’s request to transfer the case to another court and said that Additional Sessions Judge Humayun Dilawar would hear the case.

The IHC today also issued a notice against the court’s decision to reject the list of witnesses.

Regarding the district and session judge’s alleged Facebook post, the court directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to probe into the issue.

On October 21, 2022, the 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 the sessions court to the federal capital. It sought criminal proceedings against the PTI chief for allegedly misleading the ECP regarding gifts received from foreign dignitaries while he was in office.

The PTI chairman was indicted in the case on May 10, while his petition to declare the case inadmissible was rejected by the court.

On July 4, the IHC overturned the same ruling and directed the sessions court to hear 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.

Meanwhile, the trial continued at the court and was about to conclude soon.

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

Explanation for rehearing

Citing the repeated adjournments sought by Khan during the duration of the trial, the bench ruled that there was while the case should be reheard, there was no need for the case to be transferred to a different court.

“The order […] shows that a number of opportunities were provided to the petitioner to address arguments but adjournments were sought, hence the matter was decided in the absence of learned counsel for the petitioner.”

“…so the learned counsel for the petitioner is correct in saying that he has been condemned unheard and it would be only appropriate to remand the matter back to the Trial Court for decision afresh,” the order mentioned.

The order mentioned that it is not essential that the matter be sent to a different judge, emphasising that remitting the matter to a different jurist can be regarded as a matter of propriety and not a principle of law.

“However, in the instant case even remanding the matter to a different court is not mandated.”

Petition dismissed by top court

The Supreme Court had earlier in the day dismissed the ex-prime minister’s petition against trial proceedings pertaining to the Toshakhana case following his withdrawal of the said plea.

The three-member bench hearing the case, led by Justice Yahya Afridi and comprising Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Musarat Hilali, heard Khan’s petition against the Toshakhana case.

“The trial court cannot decide on the Toshakhana case until the final decision of the High Court,” the bench 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.

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 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.

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.

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