PTI to approach SJC against IHC chief justice over Toshakhana case

Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and PTI Chairman Imran Khan. — IHC website/AFP/Files

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Tuesday announced that it would approach the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) for a reference against Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Aamer Farooq after a bench headed by the judge did not suspend former prime minister Imran Khan’s sentence in the Toshakhana case.

In a statement, the PTI Core Committee, which is handling the party matters due to the incarceration of the party chairman, condemned the adjournment of the case by IHC till Thursday (August 24).

“It has been decided to file a reference against Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Aamer Farooq in the Supreme Judicial Council to ensure the independence of the judiciary,” the party said.

It also urged Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial to take notice of the manner in which the IHC CJ issued the decision today.

“The CJP should ensure free trial to PTI chairman under Article 10-A,” the former ruling party said and asked the IHC chief justice to separate himself from the case immediately.

“The chief justice of the Islamabad High Court has made law and justice a mere joke. Delay in justice is tantamount to murder of justice,” the Imran Khan-led party claimed. It also alleged that today’s adjournment was done to “continue the series of revenge and violence” against the party chief.

IHC adjourns hearing till Thursday

During today’s hearing the IHC bench turned down the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) request for granting them two weeks to get the record and give arguments and instead adjourned the hearing till August 24.

The orders were issued when a two-member bench headed by IHC CJ Farooq and Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri heard Imran Khan’s plea seeking the suspension of his conviction by a sessions court in the Toshakhana case.

During the hearing, ECP’s lawyer Amjad Pervaiz asked the court to grant him two weeks time to obtain the verified record of the case.

However, PTI chief’s lawyer Latif Khosa opposed the request and reminded that the court had in its notice to ECP sought a response today.

“The sentence given to the PTI chairman by the trial court is illegal as it had ended the right to defence. He did not even have the authority to hear this case. The PTI chairman does not want any concession but is asking for fundamental rights,” Khosa told the court. He also appealed to the IHC to suspend the sentence today.

On the other hand, the ECP’s lawyer stated that he is yet to receive the verified record of the case and should be given at least 10 days to prepare his arguments and should be given ample time.

“We will neither listen to Mr Khosa nor yours [ECP lawyer] and we will keep this for the day after tomorrow,” the IHC CJ responded and adjourned the hearing till August 24.

PTI challenges ‘illegal’ Toshakhana verdict in IHC

The PTI had also filed an appeal in the IHC challenging the trial court’s verdict and sentence against the party chief, requesting that the court declare the judgement “illegal” earlier this month.

“It is most respectfully prayed that the Hon’ble Court may graciously be pleased to set aside the impugned judgement dated 05.08.2023, and declare the conviction, sentence imposed upon the Appellant to be illegal and without lawful authority and to acquit the Appellant of the charges framed against him,” the petition read.

Khan was sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of Rs100,000 by Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Humayun Dilawar on August 5, 2023, after the judge found Khan guilty of graft in the Toshakhana case — a move likely to bar him from standing in elections due later this year.

Following the arrest of the PTI chief, it was the third petition the party has filed — one of which has also been filed in the Supreme Court.

What is Toshakhana case?

Under the rules governing Toshakhana — a Persian word meaning “treasure house” — government officials can keep gifts if they have a low worth, while they must pay a dramatically reduced fee to the government for extravagant items.

The Toshakhana has been under a microscope ever since the emergence of the allegations that Khan purchased the gifts he received as prime minister at throwaway rates and sold them off in the open market for staggering profits.

The 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician was accused of misusing his 2018 to 2022 premiership to buy and sell gifts in state possession that were received during visits abroad and worth more than Rs140 million ($635,000).

The gifts included watches given by a royal family, according to government officials, who have alleged previously that Khan’s aides sold them in Dubai.

Moreover, seven wristwatches, six made by watchmaker Rolex, and the most expensive a “Master Graff limited edition” valued at 85 million Pakistani rupees ($385,000), was also among the gifts.

A reference was forwarded by National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf to the Election Commission asking it to probe the matter.

In October 2022, the electoral body declared the former premier guilty of corrupt practices and filed a complaint in an Islamabad court.

Khan was convicted and sentenced to three years in jail, along with a fine amounting to Rs100,000 on August 5.