‘Will raise many questions’: Experts weigh in on Toshakhana verdict
Senior political analyst and renowned journalist Hamid Mir said Saturday that while the Toshakhana case against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan was very obvious from the get-go, the way the trial court and the presiding judge, Additional District Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Humayun Dilawar, conducted the case would raise many “questions”.
In a major development earlier today, ADSJ Humayun convicted the former prime minister for corrupt practices related to the state gift depository — allegations he denies.
The 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician was accused of misusing his premiership to buy and sell gifts in state possession that were received during visits abroad and worth more than 140 million Pakistani rupees ($490,000).
Rejecting Khan’s petition seeking inadmissibility of the case, Judge Dilawar sentenced the former prime minister to three-year imprisonment.
“Charges of misdeclaration of assets have been proven against PTI chairman,” Judge Humayun stated in his judgment.
He then handed Khan three years in jail along with a fine of Rs100,000, while issuing an arrest warrant for his immediate arrest.
Speaking to Geo News on the matter, Mir said: “Today’s judgement was not unexpected, every Pakistani knew this would be the verdict.”
He further added that Khan and his lawyers had done everything possible to get the case transferred to another court.
However, he said, it seems as though the judge had written his verdict beforehand and was just waiting for this morning to announce it.
“Apparently, the accusations against Khan carry weight, but the way the court handled the case and the conduct of the judge in the matter is quite questionable.”
“The verdict will be challenged in higher courts and it is possible that Khan will get relief,” he said adding that it was important to note that yet another PM of this country had gotten punished.
“Only prime ministers get punished, and those who crush the Constitution, walk away scott-free,” he remarked.
Furthermore, senior journalist and political analyst Ansar Abbasi termed the verdict a “big decision” and said: “Whether the Toshakhana case was one of mega corruption or not, when you look at Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification in Supreme Court, this was a strong case from the get-go.”
He added that Khan and his lawyers were aware of this fact, which is why they focused on technicalities and tried to push off hearings.
“This was a strong case because all parliamentarians have to declare assets publicly every year … it is a big issue if there’s a deviation.”
He added that Khan didn’t declare his assets and only did so 2 years later, after the matter had been highlighted in the media.
However, he noted, Khan had an advantage as the case was not heard in the Supreme Court, but in a lower court.
“This gives him the opportunity to file an appeal,” he said.
Sharing his thoughts on the matter, senior political analyst and journalist Shahzaib Khanzada said it was an unfortunate thing, that yet another PM has been disqualified.
However, referring to the case, he said that the judgment was announced too soon as some petitions are still pending in the IHC.
“One of the petitions, slated for hearing next week is the one against Judge Dilawar’s decision to disregard the defence witness list. If the IHC now decides that the judge should consider the witness statement, the trial will start again. However, now that the verdict has been announced, there is ambiguity on how that will work out, he said.
He further remarked that it was unfortunate that Khan had been found guilty of something he had accused others of doing.
Senior journalist Saleem Safi concurred with his colleagues’ analyses and stated that the case had indeed been an “open-and-shut” case.
“This is why Khan chose to not argue, and they spent almost an entire year trying to put off the hearings on technical grounds.”
However, he pointed out that the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) reference against Khan was merely one aspect of the whole matter and other grounds of illegality were under consideration at the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
“First, the committee designated to assess the values of gift did not assess the value of the gift kept by Imran Khan. Moreover, the funds gained through it were not transferred to the government’s account and went to Khan instead.
“Another question being looked into by the NAB is how the gift went abroad without being registered with customs…You are allowed to keep the Toshakhana gift, but are not allowed to sell them,” he said.