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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 637, 9 August 2023

Election Commission disqualifies Imran Khan for the next five years: What next



New developments in the arrest of Imran Khan sparked questions about the lack of democratic nature in the political process.

Dhriti Mukherjee

On 09 August, new developments in the arrest of Imran Khan sparked questions about the lack of democratic nature in the political process.

The most notable development is his disqualification for the next five years by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) under Article 63(1)(h) of the Constitution, and Section 232 of the Elections Act 2017. The ECP cited his conviction in the Toshakhana case, and stated: “Mr Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi is disqualified for five years and is also de-notified as a returned candidate from constituency NA-45 Kurram-I.”

To contest his conviction, Khan's legal team appealed to the Islamabad High Court (IHC), attempting to have the judgment declared as “illegal” and based on “hyper-technical grounds” that were “misreading.” His counsel, Gohar Khan, expressed confidence that due to the short sentence, he could be granted bail within weeks. Additionally, the IHC's policy guidelines, aiming to expedite appeals against convictions, may contribute to an accelerated legal process.

While PTI denounced the disqualification and announced its intention to challenge it in the Supreme Court, legal minds within Pakistan have raised concerns about due process in the Toshakhana case. Critics argue that the haste in proceedings has undermined democratic principles, which is being fueled by PTI’s claims that the verdict was “tainted with bias”. Moreover, the disqualification of the PTI chairman and the ongoing legal battle has fuelled debates about the viability of upcoming elections and the possibility of a “minus-one” scenario.

The upcoming hearing in the IHC, led by Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, will shed light on the potential trajectory of Imran Khan's legal battle. A source from the judiciary told The News International that while Khan may receive bail, the Toshakhana case would take time. Fears of delays are low since the IHC policy directive states that criminal cases must be concluded within 90 days of the submission of the complete report.

References
(Awais Yousafzai, “IHC to hear Imran’s plea against Toshakhana verdict,” The News International, 09 August 2023;
Ansar Abbasi, “IK’s case and IHC policy on criminal cases,” The News International, 09 August 2023;
Mumtaz Alvi, Shakeel Anjum, “Toshakhana case: ECP disqualifies Imran for 5 years after conviction,” The News International, 09 August 2023;
Malik Asad, “Imran barred from politics for five years after conviction,” Dawn, 09 August 2023)
 
Endnote
Legal challenge over Toshakhana case verdict
On 08 August, a petition was filed by Imran Khan’s lawyers in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against the trial court's verdict in the Toshakhana (gift repository) case. As per the verdict, while filing Form-B for 2018-19, Khan committed “corrupt practices” as he failed to make truthful declarations regarding his assets, citing only “four goats” while not disclosing the sale and purchase of expensive gifts from Toshakhana. Khan's lawyers contend that the trial court's decision is contrary to the law and are seeking the annulment of the verdict. The former premier has requested the IHC to suspend the sentence and release him pending the central appeal's outcome. While the order stated that “his dishonesty has been established beyond doubt,” legal experts are concerned about the way the court is handling the trial. (“PTI chief challenges Toshakhana verdict in IHC,” The Express Tribune, 08 August 2023)

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