Islamabad, August 23
Pakistan’s Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial on Wednesday observed that there were prima facie “shortcomings” in the trial court’s judgment in the Toshakhana corruption case against Imran Khan and said that the Supreme Court would wait for the Islamabad High Court’s order on the former premier’s appeal against his conviction and the three-year sentence before interfering in the case.
The chief justice’s observation came as a three-judge special bench of the Supreme Court (SC) headed by him and comprising Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail heard the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief’s pleas filed against the trial court’s proceedings of the Toshakhana corruption case.
On August 5, a trial court in Islamabad found Khan guilty of “corrupt practices” in a case pertaining to concealing details of state gifts and sentenced him to three years in prison. The verdict also means that he stood disqualified from contesting general elections for five years.
Subsequently, Khan, 70, approached the IHC against his conviction and sentence. A day earlier, the Islamabad High Court adjourned the case till Thursday.
During the hearing, the top court heard arguments by PTI lawyer Latif Khosa and Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) counsel Amjad Pervaiz.
After hearing both sides, Chief Justice Bandial said, “We will not interfere in the Toshakhana case today … we will look at the IHC hearing tomorrow (Thursday) and then resume the proceedings.”
However, the top judge observed: “Prima facie, there are shortcomings in the trial court verdict.” The case was launched last year in October on the complaint of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) which had earlier disqualified Khan in the same case.
The case alleges that Imran had “deliberately concealed” details of the gifts he retained from the Toshaskhana — a repository where presents handed to government officials from foreign officials are kept — during his time as the prime minister from 2018 to 2022 and proceeds from their reported sales.
According to Toshakhana rules, gifts/presents and other such materials received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division.
According to reports, Khan received 58 gifts worth more than Rs 140 million from world leaders during his three-and-a-half-year stint and retained all of them either by paying a negligible amount or even without any payment.
During Wednesday’s hearing, the apex court raised questions on the trial court’s judgment awarding a three-year sentence to Imran Khan in the case.
The three-judge bench asked the Islamabad High Court to consider the former premier’s contentions about the trial court’s jurisdiction, maintainability of the complaint and transfer of judges, etc., tomorrow.
The bench adjourned the hearing of the case till tomorrow afternoon.
The bench also questioned the urgency shown by the trial court in deciding the case without recording the statements of the witnesses.
Justice Naqvi noted that the trial court defied the orders of the apex as well as the high court in passing the Toshakhana judgment.