The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday reserved its verdict on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s appeal against his three-year jail term in the Toshakhana case, announcing it will be issued at 11 a.m. tomorrow (Tuesday).
During today’s proceedings, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)’s counsel concluded his arguments against the appeal, maintaining that the state should be made party to the case. Khan’s lawyer, Latif Khosa, said he had no issue with this demand, but stressed that this should happen after a ruling had been issued on Khan’s release and not while he was still detained at Attock Jail.
At the outset of today’s hearing, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq stated the court would decide on Khan’s plea today. Leading a two-member divisional bench that also includes Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, he questioned ECP lawyer Amjad Pervaiz why the state needed to be made respondent in the appeal when it had not been part of the original case decided by the trial court.
“I am not opposing the appeal to suspend the sentence based on a short sentence. I am only saying that the appeal cannot be proceeded with without issuing a notice to the government,” argued the ECP lawyer, adding this was required under law. “In all such cases, attendance of three lawyers is marked—defending counsel, prosecution counsel and the state counsel,” he said, with the chief justice noting the case pertained to a “private complaint” filed by the ECP against the PTI chief.
He also noted that a public prosecutor was not present during hearing of cases filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), with Pervaiz arguing NAB’s own prosecutors were available during arguments. The ECP lawyer further argued against Khosa’s plea that the Toshakhana case had not been pursued in accordance with law, as it had been taken up by the session court without first securing approval from a magistrate.
“The trial proceedings of any crime committed under the Pakistan Penal Code have to be conducted under the CrPC,” argued Pervaiz, adding no complaint pertaining to corruption and corrupt practices had been heard by a judicial magistrate in the past 50 years. “A magistrate does not even have the authority to pass an order on any complaint. A magistrate can only pass an order on a complaint that falls within his jurisdiction,” he said, adding even if a “mistake” were made in filing the complaint, it did not have any impact on the trial.
The chief justice then questioned why the ECP secretary had filed a case against the PTI chief when the electoral body’s verdict on a reference from the NA speaker had merely stated that Khan was found guilty of corrupt practices and directed the office to “do whatever was necessary” in regards to pursuing further legal action. To this, Pervaiz said the secretary had written in the authorization that the complaint was “being filed in view of the ECP’s verdict.”
Pervaiz also argued over the PTI chief’s questioning the trial court declaring his proposed witnesses as “irrelevant” to the case, noting the case was of “wrongful declaration” of the Toshakhana assets.
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.