Chairman PTI’s sentence suspended. Arreste in cipher case Keep Imran in “judicial lockup” and produce him today (Wednesday) in connection with the cipher case.

Islamabad High Court suspends Chairman PTI’s sentence in Toshakhana case, orders immediate release

ISLAMABAD ( Web News )

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday suspended Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s sentence awarded to him in the Toshakhana case. The Court has ordered immediate release of Imran Khan.

The IHC announced the short verdict that it reserved a day earlier wherein it directed the authorities to release the PTI chief on bail.

The court said it would elaborate on the reasons for the suspension of the sentence in the detailed verdict to be issued later.

According to sources, the PTI chief has been directed to submit a surety bond of Rs.100,000 against the bail.

The verdict comes as a major legal victory for Imran Khan who had challenged his conviction and sentence awarded to him in the Toshakhana case.

However, a special court recently established to hear cases under the Official Sec­rets Act has directed the Attock Jail authorities — where the former premier is incarcerated — to keep Imran in “judicial lockup” and produce him today (Wednesday) in connection with the cipher case.

In a letter addressed to the Attock jail superintendent, Special Court Judge Abual Hasnat Muhammad Zulqarnain said: “That accused Imran Khan Niazi s/o Ikramullah Khan Niazi r/o Zaman Park, Lahore is hereby ordered for judicial remand in case FIR mentioned above, who is already detained in district jail, Attock.”

The cipher case pertains to a diplomatic document which reportedly went missing from Imran’s possession. The PTI alleges that it contained a threat from the United States to oust Imran from power. Proceedings against PTI Vice Chairman and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the same case are also under way.

The much-anticipated order in the Toshakhana case was announced by an IHC division bench comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri on the former prime minister’s appeal against his prison term.

“The copy of the judgment will be available shortly … all we are saying now is that [Imran’s] request has been approved,” Justice Aamir Farooq said. The court had announced to deliver the judgment at 11:00 AM on Tuesday; however the judges entered the courtroom at 12:55 PM on Tuesday.

PTI lawyers Babar Awan, Shoaib Shaheen, Naeem Haider Panjutha, Sher Afzal Marwat and others were also present in the courtroom.

PTI chairman’s aide on legal affairs Naeem Haider Panjotha also confirmed the same in a post on X (formerly Twitter): “The CJ has accepted our request, suspended the sentence and said a detailed decision would be provided later.”

Earlier this month, a district and sessions court in the federal capital had sentenced Imran Khan to three years in prison and imposed a fine of Rs.100,000, after finding him guilty of corrupt practices related to the state gift repository — in a move that barred him from contesting elections due later this year.

The former prime minister, who has been disqualified from holding any public office due to the conviction, was arrested immediately after the trial court’s ruling on August 5 and has since been incarcerated in Attock jail.

Subsequently, Imran Khan petitioned the high court against the Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Humayun Dilawar decision to convict him in the Toshakhana case filed by Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

On Monday, a division bench comprising IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri concluded the proceedings on the plea and reserved the verdict.

Before the conclusion of proceedings, the counsel representing the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Muhammad Amjad Pervaiz presented his arguments opposing the pleas by the PTI chief.

The PTI counsel Sardar Latif Khan Khosa had focused on three aspects — suspension of his client’s short sentence, jurisdictional defect and improper authorisation — to defend the plea.

However, the electoral body’s lawyer termed the objections to the maintainability of the ECP’s complaint as baseless during Monday’s hearing.

He claimed that the witnesses presented by the defence were not relevant as these were tax consultants, whereas the complainant accused the ex-PM of submitting a false declaration of assets.

He also objected to the request for suspension of Khan’s sentence, saying this is not a matter of right but the discretion of the court which could be exercised judiciously.

“Today is the day of victory for the Constitution, law and justice,” Shoaib Shaheen, the PTI chief’s counsel, said while taking to journalists outside the court. “[…] who will compensate Imran Khan for 25 days of imprisonment,” he asked.

Shaheen criticised trial court Judge Humayun Dilawar, who had handed out the three-year sentence to Khan, terming him “biased” for not allowing the PTI chief to present his witnesses in the court. “It is a pity that justice was murdered,” Shaheen added. “Today, the truth has won. The Constitution and law have won,” he said.

Ahead of the Toshakhana verdict, the PTI filed a new plea seeking the court’s directive to stop authorities from arresting Imran Khan in any case. The plea was filed in the IHC by PTI chief’s lawyer Salman Safdar.

The petition filed in the court to restrict the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), National Accountability Bureau and police from arresting Khan.

Established in 1974, Toshakhana — a Persian word meaning “treasure house” — is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division and stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats and officials by heads of other governments and states and foreign dignitaries as a goodwill gesture.

It has valuables ranging from bulletproof cars, gold-plated souvenirs and expensive paintings to watches, ornaments, rugs and swords.

Under the rules governing Toshakhana, 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), were 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.

On October 21, 2022, the ECP maintained that the former prime minister made “false statements and incorrect declarations” about the gifts and disqualified him under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution.

Subsequently, the election watchdog moved a sessions court in the federal capital, seeking criminal proceedings against the PTI chief for allegedly misleading the ECP regarding gifts received from foreign dignitaries while he was in office.

The trial court indicted the PTI chairman on May 10 and rejected his petition to declare the case inadmissible.

On July 4, the IHC overturned the trial court’s ruling and directed it to rehear the petitioner and decide the matter within seven days.

On July 8, ADSJ Dilawar declared the Toshakhana case against Khan as maintainable, which was again challenged in the IHC.

During the trial proceedings, Khan’s lawyers also accused the presiding judge of bias on the basis of his Facebook posts and sought the transfer of the case.

On August 2, the trial court rejected the list of witnesses presented by the PTI chairman, stating that he failed to prove their “relevance” in the criminal proceedings against him. It was also challenged in the high court.

However, the PTI chairman again moved the high court seeking a stay and transfer of the case to another court.

On August 4, IHC Chief Farooq referred the matter back to the trial court with a direction to re-examine the jurisdiction and any procedure lapse in the filing of the complaint by the Election Commission.

On August 5, the trial court found the former prime minister guilty of misdeclaration of state gifts.