IHC suspends Imran Khan’s sentence in Toshakhana case but cipher issue keeps PTI chief in prison
By News Desk
August 29, 2023 10:08 AM
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has suspended the three-year sentence of PTI chief and former prime minister Imran Khan in Toshakhana case and ordered his release, but the ex-premier will remain in Attock Jail in connection with cipher case, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.
The chances of Khan’s release after suspension of his Toshakhana sentence have become nil after the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) “arrested” him in Attock Jail in connection with cipher case.
The Official Secrets Act Court had kept Imran Khan in Attock Jail on judicial remand until August 30 in cipher case. Judge Abual Hasnat Muhammad Zulqarnain had already pronounced the verdict of judicial remand and sent the written order to the Attock Jail superintendent, directing him to produce Imran Khan in court after his judicial remand expires on August 30 (Wednesday-tomorrow).
Earlier, pronouncing the decision reserved on Monday, the two-judge IHC bench comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Tariq Mahmood Jahangiri ordered the release of Imran Khan on bail against the surety bond of Rs100,000.
The bench reserved the judgment on the former prime minister’s appeal against his prison term on Monday after hearing the arguments from the ECP lawyer and PTI chief’s lawyer Latif Khan Khosa.
Announcing the verdict two hours before the scheduled time of 11:00 am, Chief Justice Aamer Farooq remarked: “The copy of the judgment will be available shortly … all we are saying now is that [Imran’s] request has been approved.”
PTI chief’s legal counsel Naeem Haider Panjutha 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.”
Imran Khan’s party and lawyers said he was granted bail, but they feared the 70-year-old would be rearrested over one of the more than 200 cases levelled against him since he was was ousted by parliamentary vote in April 2022.
"We have filed a separate application requesting the court pass an order barring the authorities from arresting him in any other case," Gohar Khan, one of the lawyers, told AFP.
"If authorities arrest him in any other case, it will be against his legal rights."
Khan has been in prison for three weeks since a judge found him guilty of failing to properly declare gifts he received while in office.
Anticipating his release, Khan's legal team said they would head for Attock Jail, a century-old prison around 60 kilometres (40 miles) west of the capital, Islamabad.
But political commentator Omar Quraishi told AFP "it remains to be seen if the former prime minister will be released and if so, when", because of the volume of other cases involving Khan.
On August 5, a sessions court of Judge Hamayun Dilawar in Islamabad convicted Imran Khan in the case filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and sentenced him to three years in prison. The verdict meant he was disqualified from contesting general elections for five...
Imran Khan moved to the high court and filed an appeal against his conviction. He had also approached the Supreme Court against the IHC’s decision to remand the case back to the trial court judge who had convicted him.
On Aug 23, the Supreme Court observed that there were ‘procedural defects’ in the verdict of the trial court which convicted former prime minister and sent him to jail in the Toshakhana Reference.
“Prima facie the decision by the additional sessions judge (ASJ) contains defects, but we will not intervene at this stage; rather wait for the outcome of the high court decision,” Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial observed during the hearing.
However, the Punjab Bar Council objected to the observation of the top judge, stressing that there should be no interference in matters sub judice in the subordinate judiciary.
During yesterday’s hearing of the case in the Islamabad High Court, Election Commission of Pakistan’s lawyer Amjad Pervaiz completed his arguments and opposed the PTI chairman’s petition seeking suspension of his sentence. He gave several references citing various laws and court judgments in support of his arguments. He said that Imran Khan was sentenced in the corrupt practices case.
The ECP lawyer requested the court to issue notice to the public prosecutor in the case.
CJ Farooq remarked that it was the ECP, and not the state, that had filed a petition against Imran. “You did not state this during the case’s hearing in the trial court,” he said.
ECP’s lawyer, on the occasion, cited a relevant decision given by a court in India.
He said that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had been sentenced to two years in prison on a private complaint. “Rahul appealed the decision, which was rejected by the court, saying the suspension of a sentence was not a ‘hard and fast rule’,” he said, and added, “Truth of the matter is that the state has not been made a respondent in PTI chief’s petition.”
CJ Farooq remarked that it was the ECP’s private complaint against the former prime minister. “When there was no reference to the state during the hearing in the trial court, then why should it be mentioned now?” he questioned.
The chief justice went on to say that a complainant was never made a party in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) cases.
Advocate Pervaiz said that a prosecutor had been defined in the NAB laws. “The state has nothing to do with the NAB case; it is the bureau’s own prosecutor who is listened to,” the lawyer said, adding, “An order by a court without listening to arguments by the NAB is unthinkable.”
He said that it was the CrPC that shed light on ‘Public Prosecutor’.
ECP’s lawyer requested the court to issue a notice to the government. “I have already given references of 14 court verdicts,” he added.
He further said that even the appellant had not objected to a trial by a sessions court. “Their contention is that it is the sessions court, which has to hear the case. But the complaint should first go to a magistrate,” Advocate Pervaiz told the court.
He went on to say that it was being alleged by the PTI that its chairman had not been granted the right to defence in the case. “I was the one who had said during trial in the sessions court that the defendant should be given that right,” he added.
The lawyer said that the court, in its verdict, had said that Imran had been found involved in ‘corrupt practices’, and that action should be taken against him.
“I will say nothing new in the case,” Advocate Pervaiz said, and regretted that the PTI had bent upon projecting the ECP and judge Humayun Dilawar as ‘villains’.
The chief justice cut him short and asked him to better concentrate on the case on hand.
After hearing the ECP lawyer, the court reserved its verdict.
Bushra Bibi reaches Attock Jail to meet husband
Meanwhile, the former First Lady Bushra Bibi has reached Attock Jail to meet her husband Imran Khan whose three-year sentence in Toshakhana has been suspended by the Islamabad High Court earlier today.
Security was on high alert across the jail.
Bushra Bibi was stopped at the police checkpost.
This would be the third meeting of Bushra Bibi with her husband Imran Khan whose chances of getting out of the Attock Jail are slim due to a case registered against him under the Official Secrets Act.
Meanwhile, two sisters of Imran Khan, Aleema and Uzma, have also reached Attock Jail to meet their brother.
Reporters Farzana Siddique, Muhammad Imran and inputs from AFP