The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday suspended Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s three-year imprisonment in the Toshakhana case.
IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq announced the short order after reserving it a day earlier. It directs authorities to release the PTI chief on bail, but retains the former prime minister’s conviction, disqualifying him from holding public office for five years. The court said a detailed order was still being written, adding it would be issued later. The conviction can be reversed in appeals, but that is a lengthy process that has yet to formally commence.
According to legal experts, the suspension of Khan’s sentence was expected, as he was facing a “minor” imprisonment of three years. However, it remains unclear when the PTI chief would be allowed to go free, as he is currently facing arrests in several other cases, and has also already been placed under arrest in the ongoing cipher case. Cognizant of this, Khan’s legal team filed a fresh petition in the IHC on Tuesday seeking orders to authorities barring them from further “illegal and unjustified arrest” of the PTI chief in any case filed against him after Aug. 5. The plea specifically mentions the cipher case, registered by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Aug. 15 under the Official Secrets Act.
Speaking with media after the ruling, Shuaib Shaheen—one of Khan’s lawyers—claimed it was a victory of justice. He questioned what compensation would be granted to the PTI chief for the 25 days he had already spent in prison and urged the PTI’s political rivals to reconsider “political victimization” in light of such rulings.
On Aug. 5, a trial court in Islamabad convicted Khan in a case filed by the ECP involving concealing details of state gifts, finding him guilty of “corrupt practices” and jailing him for three years. The verdict also disqualified Khan from contesting general elections for five years. The PTI chief subsequently filed an appeal against the decision in the high court and simultaneously approached the Supreme Court against the IHC’s decision to remand the case back to the trial court judge who had convicted him.
In a hearing last week, the apex court observed “procedural defects” in Khan’s conviction, but said it would not issue any order until the IHC had issued its verdict decision on Khan’s plea. This has triggered some controversy, as legal experts have declared it “interference” in matters pending before the subordinate judiciary.