The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on August 2, 2023, deferred the indictment of former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case, Pakistan-based Dawn reported. Imran Khan is now expected to be charged at the next hearing on August 22, 2023
The Toshakhana Incident
During his tenure as the prime minister, Imran Khan earned 36 million by illegally selling three watches gifted to him by foreign dignitaries to a local watch dealer. Khan, as the prime minister, earned millions of rupees from these jewel-class watches collectively worth over Rs 154 million. The watches were gifted to him by foreign leaders.
Khan had deliberately concealed the details of the gifts he retained from the Toshakhana-a repository where the presents handed over to government officials from foreign officials are kept
The most expensive watch, more than Rs 101 million in value, was retained by the then prime minister at 20 per cent of its value after his government amended the Toshakhana rules and settled the gift retention price at 50 per cent of its original value, the report said.
The Election Commission Incident and Subsequent Response
Last year, the ECP started contempt proceedings against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan, party leader Asad Umar, former Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry for allegedly using “intemperate” language against the chief election commissioner and the electoral watchdog, according to Dawn.
Rather than appearing before the ECP, the three leaders had challenged the notices of the electoral watchdog and contempt proceedings in various high courts on the grounds that Section 10 of the Elections Act 2017, which is the statutory provision regarding the commission’s power to punish for contempt, was against the Constitution.
The PTI leaders had sought declaratory relief from the charges in the high courts. However, the Supreme Court in January permitted the ECP to continue proceedings against Imran Khan, Fawad Chaudhry and Asad Umar. On June 21, the ECP had taken the decision to frame charges against the three leaders.
In July, Asad Umar, Fawad Chaudhry and Imran Khan did not appear before the commission despite being summoned. After which, the ECP issued arrest warrants for Fawad Chaudhry and Imran Khan. However, the electoral body accepted a plea by Asad Umar’s lawyer to grant him an exemption from the hearing.
Arrest Warrants for Imran Khan, Fawad Chaudhary, Asad Umar
Subsequently, the electoral watchdog on July 24 issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against Imran Khan and asked the Islamabad police chief to arrest and present him before the commission, Dawn reported.
On July 25, 2023, Imran Khan appeared before the electoral body for the first time since August last year when the case was initiated against him. After he appeared before the four-member ECP bench, the non-bailable arrest warrants against the former Pakistan Prime Minister were suspended.
Response from the Election Commission
ECP member from Sindh Nisar Durrani had put off the indictment until August 2 after Shoaib Shaheen representing Imran Khan, requested for an adjournment until September. Imran Khan was not present for the hearing on August 2. During the hearing, Shaheen filed an application seeking an exemption from personal appearance on Imran Khan’s behalf.
Shoaib Shaheen told the electoral watchdog that his client had gone to the hospital for a medical checkup. He further said that his client was appearing before the courts on a daily basis, Dawn reported.
At this, the ECP member retired Justice Ikramullah Khan said that Imran Khan was supposed to be indicted during today’s hearing. He further questioned, “How can we accept a plea seeking exemption from personal appearance,” according to Dawn.
Imran Khan’s lawyer Shaheen said that the charges against the PTI chairman had not yet been proven as he requested the electoral watchdog to adjourn the hearing. The lawyer said that he had not yet provided the case record. The hearing has now been adjourned till August 22.