An Islamabad district and sessions court on Monday upheld the non-bailable arrest warrants for PTI Chairman Imran Khan it issued last week in the Toshakhana case over his persistent absences in the case hearings.
Additional Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal announced the verdict reserved earlier in the day after hearing the arguments on an application filed by the PTI chief seeking the cancellation of his warrants.
The same court had last week issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Imran after he decided not to turn up before the court while attending hearings of three other cases — prohibited funding, terrorism, and attempted murder — filed against him in other local courts located in proximity.
On Sunday, an Islamabad police team was sent to Lahore to arrest Imran with the court summons. However, it returned empty-handed after the PTI chief evaded the arrest.
Subsequently, Imran petitioned the Islamabad sessions court arguing that the withdrawal of warrants would enable him “a fair opportunity to appear and defend himself” in the case.
The PTI chief is accused of concealing, in his assets declarations, details of the gifts he retained from the Toshakhana — a repository where presents handed to government officials from foreign officials are kept. Officials are legally allowed to retain gifts provided they pay a pre-assessed amount, typically a fraction of the value of the gift.
In the judgement issued today, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, ADSJ Iqbal said that Imran had not challenged the arrest warrants issued for him at any forum.
“The accused was in a position to appear in this court on Feb 28 after his appearances in different honourable courts but he wilfully avoided to appear in this court.
“A warrant shall remain enforced until it is cancelled by the court which issued it or until it is executed as per Section 75(2) Cr.P.C,” the court order stated.
It said that the warrant had been issued for Imran’s appearance in the trial, but noted that the PTI chief was not present in court even today.
“The accused has not surrendered himself before the court till yet and no application for his personal appearance for today is annexed with the [court] record. The accused has not appeared in court for ensuring his appearance in the trial in future, therefore, the application is rejected,” it added.
PTI lawyers Qaisar Imam, Ali Bukhari, and Barrister Gohar appeared on behalf of the party head in the hearing today.
At the outset of the hearing, Bukhari told the court that his client wanted to be given a way to appear in court. He said the PTI chief had always implemented court orders, adding that the police could not detain him if he wished to appear before the court.
“You could have approached the Islamabad High Court for the cancellation of arrest warrants,” the judge asked the PTI counsel.
The lawyer responded that the legal team wanted to approach the sessions court for the cancellation of warrants.
Imran approaches LHC
Separately, Imran has also approached the Lahore High Court (LHC) for bail in three different cases pertaining to the Toshakhana reference, vandalism at the Islamabad judicial complex and violence outside the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
However, Dawn.com has learnt that the LHC registrar has raised objections on Imran’s pleas, saying that complete documents had not been submitted along with the petitions.
The 70-year-old former prime minister, who has been recovering from a gunshot injury from an assassination attempt in Wazirabad last year, has thrice skipped indictment hearings in an Islamabad sessions court in the case.
Imran was set to be indicted in the Toshakhana Reference on Feb 28, but his lawyer had requested ADSJ Zafar Iqbal that he be exempted from the hearing because he had to appear in several other courts. His indictment was deferred twice before.
The judge had then issued arrest warrants for Imran and adjourned the hearing till March 7.
The reference, which alleges that Imran had not shared details of the gifts he retained from the Toshaskhana (during his time as the prime minister) and proceeds from their reported sales, was filed by lawmakers from the ruling coalition last year. On October 21, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had concluded that the former premier had indeed made “false statements and incorrect declarations” regarding the gifts.
The Toshakhana is a department under the Cabinet Division that stores gifts given to rulers and government officials by heads of other governments and foreign dignitaries. According to Toshakhana rules, gifts/presents and other such materials received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division.
The watchdog’s order had said Imran stood disqualified under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution.
Subsequently, the ECP had approached the Islamabad sessions court with a copy of the reference, seeking proceedings against Imran under criminal law for allegedly misleading officials about the gifts he received from foreign dignitaries during his tenure as the prime minister.