Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested on Saturday after a trial court in Islamabad found him guilty of the “offence of corrupt practices” in the state gifts case (commonly known as the Toshakhana case). Mr. Khan has been sentenced to three years in jail and fined 100,000 Pakistani rupees.
An order by Additional and Sessions Judge Humayun Dilawar said Mr. Khan “cheated while providing information about gifts he obtained from Toshakhana which later proved to be false and inaccurate. His dishonesty has been established beyond doubt”. Mr. Khan has been shifted to Attock Jail in Punjab.
Mr. Khan is accused of misusing his tenure from 2018 to 2022 to buy and sell gifts in state possession that were received during visits abroad and were worth more than Rs. 140 million. However, he denies that he misdeclared. One of the most precious gifts that he sold was a special Holy Kaaba edition Graff watch that was gifted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia to him.
Mr. Khan’s lawyer Intazar Hussain Panjutha told The Hindu that as a consequence of the conviction, the former Prime Minister will not be able to contest elections for the next five years and will also not be able to remain chairman of his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
“Our stance has been that Khan has never concealed anything. He has declared everything, all precious items and other assets and liabilities, as per the law. There was no segregation in the form or column where we write which ones are Toshakhana gifts. Even the Rs. 90 lakhs in taxes have been paid. It is only because we didn’t write the word ‘Toshakhana’ that this case has been filed, which is not even needed,” said Mr. Panjutha.
He added that this conviction seemed like it was a kangaroo court that gave such a verdict. “The conduct of the judge seemed biased; he didn’t even allow our witnesses and didn’t entertain any of our legal requests.” He said the verdict was announced at 12:30pm and Mr. Khan was arrested at exactly 12:50pm. “Orders weren’t even signed when he was arrested. It seems like a fixed match.”
“This is a high-level transparency case and my struggle for right to information has been vindicated today,” said journalist Rana Abrar.
Mr. Abrar was the first journalist who started investigating the Toshakhana case during the PTI government’s tenure. He submitted his first Right of Access to Information (RTI) on November 23, 2020, seeking the gifts received by Prime Minister Imran Khan. He was later threatened, harassed and fired from his jobs as a result for his efforts to uncover the truth related to Toshakhana gifts.
Mr. Abrar said Mr. Khan started his politics on a high moral ground. “If his rival politician even so much as violated a traffic signal, he used to declare it a grave crime. Unfortunately, it is evident that Imran Khan did everything that he had accused all his political rivals of — he had called them thief, dacoit and said they committed unforgivable crimes.”
Political analyst and journalist Benazir Shah said this was an important case in which Mr. Khan should have been responsible. “Yet, over the last few years Khan has repeatedly tried to dodge answering whether he made false declarations in regards to his assets and concealed the actual value of the gifts he acquired from the state depository”
However, Ms. Shah said the verdict comes at a time where there is a crackdown by the state on Imran Khan’s political party. “Also, Pakistan has a history of disqualifying elected prime ministers on far less serious charges, at the behest of Pakistan’s powerful military,” added Ms. Shah. “It is unfortunate that an important and a very serious case against the former prime minister has been marred by the environment that the verdict was announced in, raising suspicions of whether the state was in a hurry to push Khan out of the electoral race.”