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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 654, 26 August 2023

Imran Khan's Conviction in Toshakhana Case: The IHC Hearing and Chief Justice's Remarks



Imran Khan accused the IHC Chief Justice of harbouring a deep-rooted sense of bias

Dhriti Mukherjee

On 25 August, Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court (IHC), Justice Amir Farooq, stated that the decision on the plea against Imran Khan had been deferred to 28 August, despite protests by his party members. He further noted that the high court bench was "sandwiched" between the trial court and the Supreme Court (SC) while discussing PTI Chairman Imran Khan's applications for the right to defence in the Toshakhana case. This statement was made with reference to the court’s hearing of the Toshakhana case, and the IHC adjourned the hearing of the appeal until Friday.

The counsel for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Amjaz Pervez, brought up the fact that the SC had taken up similar applications against the 4 August order of the IHC. Despite identifying procedural defects in the trial court’s decision, the court made the decision to intervene only after hearing what the IHC had to say.

Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial, who headed a three-member bench for the case, emphasized that there would be no compromise on dispensation of justice and decisions would be made according to the law and Constitution. This statement was essential due to the growing number of claims that all the procedures regarding Khan’s case had been biased and unfair. The SC directed the attorney general to file a report by 28 August regarding the conditions under which Imran Khan was being held in jail, a matter which has been the centre of heated debate in the last few weeks.

Imran Khan's Conviction and Supreme Court's Acknowledgment
With reference to Khan’s conviction in the Toshakhana reference by a trial court on 5 August, “procedural defects” were recognised by the SC. However, despite this acknowledgment, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial stated that they would wait for the decision of the IHC on the plea seeking suspension of the three-year sentence before taking any action. The trial court was given the case back by the IHC for reconsideration. This was done not just as a result of the SC observing “serious defects,” but also due to questions regarding the trial court’s hurried decision that failed to consider statements by witnesses. Additionally, the trial court failed to follow the IHC’s directions. The court decided to let the IHC decide the matter first and then proceed accordingly.

IHC Chief Justice's Comments and Imran Khan's Allegations
IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq remarked during the hearing that the trial court "did wrong" in convicting Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case. He showcased hope towards the high court acting on the points that had been brought forward by the counsel.

Meanwhile, Imran Khan accused the IHC Chief Justice of harbouring a deep-rooted sense of bias, which led him to keep Khan in jail so he would not be able to stand in the upcoming elections. Khan’s petition thereby requested the SC to transfer his cases to either the Lahore High Court or Peshawar High Court, amid allegations by his lawyers and advocates that the IHC has displayed unfair bias and prolonged the hearings more than necessary. Combined with the public outcry and the conditions in which he is allegedly being held in, these new developments have complexified the legal proceedings, as more courts continue to get involved in the process.
 
References
Sohail Khan, “IHC gets sandwiched between SC, trial court: Justice Amir,” The News International, 25 August 2023; Nasir Iqbal, “Bushra apprehends ‘serious threats’ to Imran’s life in prison,” Dawn, 26 August 2023; Malik Asad, “Drama at IHC as Imran’s plea adjourned to next week,” Dawn, 26 August 2023; Shahid Rao, “Toshakhana trial verdict carried serious defects: Chief Justice,” The Nation, 24 August 2023; Shahid Rao, “IHC to announce decision on plea against PTI chief conviction on Monday,” The Nation, 26 August 2023; Nasir Iqbal, “SC spots ‘procedural defects’ in Imran’s conviction,” Dawn, 24 August 2023)

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