Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on Wednesday remarked that a trial court had announced the verdict in the Toshakhana case in “haste,” indicating an intent to suspend the conviction and sentencing of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan that has led to his detention at Attock Jail.
The observation was uttered while the CJP was heading a three-member bench that also includes Justices Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Jamal Khan Mandokhel to hear a petition filed by the PTI chief against a ruling of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) rejecting his plea to transfer his case to another trial court. Earlier this month, the IHC had annulled a trial court verdict on the maintainability of the Toshakhana case against the PTI chief, but had rejected his request to transfer the case to another court and ordered the trial court to revisit the issue of admissibility.
During the hearing, PTI lawyer Latif Khosa argued that Khan had been sentenced in a case filed by the ECP after a reference had been sent against him by six MNAs, which had then been forwarded by the speaker. “Do the members of the assembly have the authority to send a reference against their fellow members?” Justice Naqvi inquired. “Under which law can assembly members send references against other parliamentarians?”
To this, Khosa replied that MNAs did not have the authority to send the reference, but the speaker does. He further told the apex court that the electoral body could only take action against an MNA within a fixed time of 120 days after the submission of financial statements, suggesting Khan’s case was no longer valid as it was filed much later than the deadline.
“The present case is not whether a reference could have been sent against Chairman PTI or not,” said Justice Mandokhel. “You have challenged the decision of the Islamabad High Court,” he said.
Taking the rostrum, ECP’s counsel Amjad Pervaiz argued that Khan still had various forums to secure his release, as he had only been convicted by a trial court. To this, the CJP questioned whether Khan was present in the courtroom today. “I don’t see him here. Isn’t Imran Khan imprisoned in jail? Please don’t make such jokes. What chances of justice have been granted to Imran Khan? The trial court sentenced him without giving him a proper hearing,” he remarked.
After both lawyers’ arguments had been presented, the CJP Bandial said that the apex court would not issue any order today and would wait till the IHC hearing, scheduled for tomorrow, had concluded. “We will not interfere in the Toshakhana case today and we will look at the IHC hearing tomorrow and resume the hearing,” he said, rejecting a plea from the ECP lawyer to adjourn the proceedings for two weeks.