ECP reserves verdict on the Toshakhana disqualification reference against Imran Khan
Date for issuance of the verdict will be announced later on
ISLAMABAD ( Web News )
Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday reserved verdict on the Toshakhana disqualification reference against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan. The reference of disqualification of Member National Assembly Imran Khan has been filed by Ali Gohar Khan Baloch and five other MNAs under Article 63 of the Constitution.
After hearing arguments, a five-member bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Dr. Sikandar Sultan Raja and comprising Nisar Ahmed Durrani, Shah Muhammad Jatoi, Babar Hassan Bharwana and Justice (retd) Ikramullah Khan reserved its ruling, however, a date for the judgment has yet to be announced.
At the outset of Monday’s hearing, Barrister Senator Syed Ali Zafar, Imran Khan’s counsel, admitted that his client had sold at least four gifts he had received during 2018-19. “The gifts were sold for Rs58 million and their receipts were enclosed with the income tax returns filed by my client,” the lawyer apprised the ECP.
He maintained that they have provided the gifts’ details till 2021 in the written reply submitted to the election body. “The ECP conducts scrutiny if the body has doubts on any details but in this case, the election body did not raise any objection,” argued the PTI lawyer.
In 2019-20, Imran Khan received gifts worth Rs1.7 million, the lawyer told the ECP.
An ECP member asked about the source of income for procuring the gifts from the state treasury. At this, the lawyer said that they will not give the details to them.
Barrister Syed Ali Zafar argued that the Election Commission is not a court but a commission and no institution becomes a court unless it is supervised by the High Court.
He said it’s not possible that questions were raised regarding a years old matter, it is a political case. The opposition is also holding press conferences on it.
In this regard, Barrister Khalid Ishaq, the counsel of the petitioners Ali Gohar Khan Baloch, Barrister Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha and others, argued that only one question was asked in the Speaker National Assembly’s reference, while Imran Khan’s answer submitted in the reference is not in accordance with the question. He said the PTI Chairman did not declare the gifts received from Toshakhana as assets and he has admitted that he kept the gifts from Toshakhana.
Barrister Khalid Ishaq further said that the question is that Imran Khan did not reveal these gifts at the right time. Cufflinks and watches cost several millions. I have several cufflinks and watches in my wardrobe, which I have not listed under assets, he added.
On which, the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) remarked that then you should also show those in your assets.
Barrister Khalid Ishaq responded that one cufflink placed costs 5.67 million. In his reply, Imran Khan did not say who bought these gifts from him.
Member ECP from Punjab Babar Bharwana questioned what would be the legality of the gifts if they were not sold.
Barrister Khalid Ishaq said that if it was not sold, why was it said in the reply that the gifts were sold? He added that in the response, it was also said that no one has revealed the daily necessities.
The PML-N lawyer said that the case in the commission is against Imran Khan and not any other member of the assembly, adding that every Member of Assembly is bound to submit details of assets to the Election Commission and failure to submit returns within 120 days may result in action under corrupt practices. Imran Khan has been guilty of corrupt practices by making a miss declaration in the form. Imran Khan revealed Toshakhana gifts at FBR in 2021, he went on saying.
Furthermore, Member ECP Sindh Nisar Ahmed Durrani said that there may have been a mistake in declaring the assets, if the assets are not declared by mistake, there is no disqualification. Barrister Khalid Ishaq said that if there is a mistake, then admit it.
The Chief Election Commissioner said that wherever there is doubt, the Election Commission also conducts scrutiny. This time, the Election Commission has further improved the reporting form.
During his argument, the PML-N counsel referred to the Panama case and said that “in its revision, it was objected that Article 62 (1) (F) cannot be applied without a trial on which the court had said that Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif had not refused to have a fixed salary.”
He added that the “court had said that if the facts are not disputed then there is no need for a trial, whereas Imran Khan has been found guilty of lying on the affidavit”.
Advocate Ishaq submitted a reply to the court, stating that the ousted premier has admitted to receiving and selling gifts but has not mentioned the price for which he sold the items and on what date.
Giving his argument, Imran Khan’s lawyer said that the speaker “is not qualified to send a reference of Article 62 (1) (F), for which the declaration of the court is mandatory”, noting that the speaker did not have any court declaration while making the decision.
“ECP has no authority to determine the honesty of the members as the Supreme Court has declared that the electoral body is not a court and if a member is convicted under Article 62 (1) (F), the speaker would send a reference for disqualification,” Barrister Syed Ali Zafar added.
“There is no court decision against Imran Khan and nor has he been convicted,” he maintained.
“Can the ECP not automatically take action on the concealment of assets?” questioned the commission’s Punjab member. To which, Zafar said that the body is only “authorised to act within four months of the elections”.
The chief election commissioner then proceeded to question “can action not be taken if concrete information is received after four months?”. The PTI chief’s counsel replied that while action can be taken, the “ECP is not authorised to do so”.
Meanwhile, the body’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Member Justice (retd) Ikramullah Khan said that it is also important to declare where the money given to Toshakhana came from. To this, Zafar said that keeping track of money is the “Federal Board of Revenue’s [FBR] job, not the ECP’s”.
Later, the Election Commission of Pakistan reserved its decision on the case after the arguments of Barrister Syed Ali Zafar were completed.
It is pertinent to note that Imran Khan while submitting a written reply in the previous hearing had denied the allegations of concealing Toshakhana gifts in the reports. The Toshakhana case was brought before the electoral watchdog last year after the Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) had accepted an application on the matter and had directed the Cabinet Division to provide information about the gifts received by then-prime minister Imran Khan from foreign dignitaries.
It is noteworthy here that in August 2022, Speaker National Assembly Raja Pervaiz Ashraf sent a reference to the ECP under Articles 62A, 63A and 223, seeking former Imran Khan’s disqualification in the light of the Toshakhana scam.
The disqualification reference was filed by Ali Gohar Khan Baloch, PMLN’s Mohsin Nawaz Ranjha and four others.
The 28-page reference identified 52 gift items of Toshakhana received by former Imran khan, violating the law and rules, taken away at nominal prices and most of the gifts were sold in the market, including some precious watches.
The assessed value of the gifts has been put at Rs 142,042,100. The gifts were received between August 2018 and December 2021.
According to PML-N MNA Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha, Imran Khan concealed information about the gift of watches by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in his statement of assets submitted in 2018-2019.
This withholding of information is tantamount to lying which, according to MNA Mohsin Ranjha, is a crime under Section 137 declaring that Imran Khan is no more Sadiq and Ameen, slapping disqualification for life from contesting the election under Article 62(1)(f), Article 2, Article 3 of the Constitution.
Article 62(1)(f) is the same legal instrument that disqualified former PM Nawaz Sharif from contesting elections and led to his removal from power, Ranjha further said.