ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has disqualified former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan for five years and de-notified him as a returned candidate from NA-45 Kurram following his conviction in Toshakhana case.
Deposed prime minister Imran Khan was arrested and sent to famous Attock jail on Saturday hours after a trial court in Islamabad sentenced him to three years in prison while imposing on him a fine of Rs100,000 for making false declarations about his assets to the polls supervisory body.
Additional Sessions Judge Humayun Dilawar also disqualified the PTI chief for five years, apparently ending his prospects for taking part in the elections slated for November this year, provided that superior courts do not come to his rescue this time.
“This court finds it more than convincing that the complainant [ECP] has provided confidence inspiring, well-knitted and corroborated evidence and so the charge against the accused has successfully been proven,” the judge said in his 30-page verdict issued at the conclusion of a rather speedy trial initiated on a criminal complaint of the ECP.
The trial court said while filing Form-B for financial year 2018-2019, Imran Khan had declared “four goats” as his assets but omitted to disclose purchase of precious gifts from the state’s gift repository – Toshakhana – as well as their sale to different people.
Every lawmaker is supposed to submit Form-B to the ECP on a yearly basis. This form is a statement of a legislator’s assets and liabilities including moveable and immovable properties in and outside Pakistan.
According to the verdict, Imran Khan committed the offense of “corrupt practices” by making and publishing false declarations in respect of assets he acquired by way of gifts from the Toshakhana during the years 2018-2019, 2019-2020 and 2020-21.
“He has been found guilty of corrupt practices by hiding the benefits he accrued from the national exchequer willfully and intentionally. He cheated while providing information about the gifts he obtained from Toshakhana which later proved to be false and inaccurate.
“His dishonesty has been established beyond doubt,” the order said.
Interestingly, the trial court issued its verdict a day after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) remanded the matter of maintainability of the ECP’s complaint back to the trial court for “decision afresh.”
In a notification issued on Tuesday, the ECP cited the August 5 court order and declared the PTI disqualified under Article 63(1)(h) of the Constitution read with Section 232 of the Elections Act, 2017.
“Therefore, Mr Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi is disqualified for a period of five years and is also de-notified as a returned candidate from constituency NA-45 Kurram-I,” the notification, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, read.
Earlier in the day, a petition challenging a trial court’s verdict in the Toshakhana (gift repository) case against Imran Khan was filed in the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
The application was filed by lawyers Khawaja Haris and Barrister Gohar Ali Khan on behalf of the former premier. “The decision of the trial court in the Toshakhana case is against the law,” stated the plea seeking for the verdict to be annulled.
Imran Khan has requested the high court to issue an order for his release by suspending the sentence pending the decision on the central appeal.
On the other hand, legal minds in Pakistan have expressed serious reservations over the trial court’s handling of the Toshakhana case, specifically pointing out the blatant disregard for due process and the erosion of democracy through such decisions.
While legal minds withheld comments on the specific facts leading to former premier Imran Khan’s conviction, their concerns focused on the procedural flaws in the court’s proceedings and its serious implications.
They criticised the court for what they viewed “as a hasty and compromised decision” and argued that the ruling echoed previous allegations made by Imran’s lawyers regarding the rushed proceedings of the IHC.