Imran Khan disqualified in Toshakhana reference
Published5 months ago
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) disqualified PTI chief Imran Khan for five years under Article 63(1)(p) for misdeclaration in the Toshakhana reference on Friday.
Article 63 (1) (p) of the Constitution states that an individual is, “for the time being, disqualified from being elected or chosen as a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament) or of a provincial assembly under any law for the time being in force”.
A four-member bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja, announced the verdict at the ECP Secretariat in Islamabad.
The decision was taken unanimously by the five-member bench. However, the member from Punjab was not present for today’s announcement.
According to the verdict, criminal proceedings will be initiated against Imran for misdeclaration.
The reference was filed in August against Imran by the coalition government, for “not sharing details” of Toshakhana gifts and proceeds from their alleged sale. Lawmakers from the Pakistan Democratic Movement — the ruling alliance — had submitted the reference to National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who had subsequently forwarded it to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja for further action.
Established in 1974, the Toshakhana is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division and stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats, and officials by heads of other governments and states and foreign dignitaries.
According to Tosha khana rules, gifts/presents and other such materials received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division.
However, the PTI, while in government, had been reluctant to disclose details of the gifts presented to Imran since he assumed office in 2018, maintaining that doing so would jeopardise international ties, even as the Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) ordered it to do so.
But later, in a written reply submitted to the ECP on September 8, Imran had admitted to selling at least four presents he had received during his tenure as the prime minister.
The former premier, in his reply, had maintained that the sale of the gifts that he had procured from the state treasury after paying Rs21.56 million fetched about Rs58m. One of the gifts included a graff wristwatch, a pair of cuff links, an expensive pen and a ring while the other three gifts included four Rolex watches.
Soon after the verdict was announced, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry, speaking to the media outside the ECP, asked the public to come out of their homes “for their rights”.
He called the ECP’s ruling a “slap on the face of 220 million people” and said, “Today is the beginning of the revolution”.
“Not just anyone cannot disqualify Imran Khan. Only the public can do that,” the PTI leader said.
He alleged that today’s verdict was “written by Nawaz Sharif and signed by his servants”.
“People disapprove of this decision.”
Alongside him, PTI leader Shahbaz Gill said the PTI would approach every forum against the verdict. “Imran has been disqualified from just one seat, not politics,” he added.
Prior to the ECP’s announcement, television footage showed PTI leaders climbing over the gate to reach the commission’s secretariat.
Strict security measures were in place at the ECP’s office ahead of the ruling on Friday, with police, Rangers and Frontier Corps personnel deployed on site in large numbers.
Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Irfan Nawaz Memon also visited the office to review security arrangements.
On Thursday, the ECP sent a letter to Islamabad police, requesting “foolproof security” inside and outside the watchdog’s premises for the full day in order to “avoid any untoward incident”. The letter also requested that two security personnel in civil dress and a traffic warden be provided as well.
The ECP stressed that all necessary security arrangements be completed, particularly inside the ECP secretariat’s building, and the matter was treated as “most urgent”.
Ahead of the verdict, PTI leaders intensified their criticism of the ECP, repeating their allegations of the electoral watchdog being partial against them.
Hours before the ruling, Imran’s lawyer, Barrister Ali Zafar addressed a press conference in Islamabad and outlined legal points in favour of the PTI chief.
He referred to a recent observation by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, wherein the top judge said handing down disqualification to a lawmaker for life under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution could only be done through a declaration by a court of law.
“Since the ECP is not a court, it cannot issue the declaration,” the lawyer contended.
Moreover, he said, there was no court ruling declaring that Imran was not “sadiq” and “ameen” (truthful and righteous). In fact, he continued, an earlier court ruling concluded that allegations of Imran not being “sadiq” and “ameen” were baseless.
“When there was no such court ruling against Imran, what authority did the [NA] speaker have to forward the reference to the ECP for proceedings under Article 62(1)(f)?” he questioned.
Moreover, the lawyer pointed out, if the ECP had to take any action against Imran in the matter, it should have been within the set timeframe of 120 days after the PTI chief submitted the details of his assets in 2018. The Elections Act bound the ECP to take action within 120 days, he contended.
Zafar said he expected that the ECP’s decision today would be in line with the law.
Alongside him, PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi cited multiple instances from the past — including the “Sindh House saga”, the ECP’s proceedings in the prohibited funding case against the PTI and the electoral watchdog expressing inability to introduce electronic voting machines — as he built his case of the electoral watchdog allegedly being partial against the PTI.
Moreover, referring to the PTI’s win in July 17 by-polls in Punjab and recently held by-elections on NA seats, Qureshi said when the PTI chief’s rivals failed to beat him in political battlegrounds, they were attempting to “politically eliminate him through lawfare.
“And we wouldn’t want Imran to be eliminated through lawfare.”
Regarding the ECP’s anticipated ruling on the Toshakhana reference, he said he expected the institution to issue a verdict in line with its constitutional obligations and responsibilities. “That it will not allow anyone to try and push forward the minus-one formula.”
When asked about the PTI’s future course in case the ECP issued a verdict against Imran, Qureshi said the party would then consider what legal options it had.
Earlier, PTI leader Shireen Mazari alleged in a tweet on Friday that the reference was all about “political vendetta by [the] biased ECP, led by [a] quisling CEC.
“What [the] ECP should be pursuing is Toshakhana cars Asif Zardari and absconder Nawaz Sharif whisked away!”
Similarly, PTI leader Maleeka Bokhari tweeted: “A biased ECP will today announce verdict in [the] Toshakhana case. A politically motivated case is being pursued whilst corrupt politicians including Nawaz and Zardari have been granted NRO-2.”
Meanwhile, a hashtag in Urdu, translating to “Imran Khan our red line” was the top trend on Twitter in Pakistan on Friday morning, with PTI leaders and followers expressing their support for the former prime minister.
In an apparent reference to the day’s developments, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry tweeted: “Islamabad is currently presenting the image of a fort that is under siege by a large army. This is just the start of the war and they are already worried? When millions of people will surround [you], no escape route will be left. Don’t take matters to the point of no return.”
The reference against Imran was filed by MNA Barrister Mohsin Nawaz Ranjha carrying signatures of lawmakers Agha Hassan Baloch, Salahudeen Ayubi, Ali Gohar Khan, Syed Rafiullah Agha and Saad Waseem Sheikh and it was subsequently forwarded to CEC Raja.
The ruling PML-N is confident Imran is going to be disqualified in the reference as they say he has not declared in his assets the amount he received from the alleged sale of state gifts.
In their disqualification reference, MNAs from the ruling alliance included documentary evidence to corroborate their claims against the ex-premier and sought his disqualification under Sections 2 and 3 of Article 63 of the Constitution, read with Article 62(1)(f).
Article 62(1)(f) says: “A person shall not be qualified to be elected or chosen as a member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) unless […] he is sagacious, righteous and non-profligate, honest and ameen, there being no declaration to the contrary by a court of law.”
Article 63(2) says: “If any question arises whether a member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) has become disqualified from being a member, the Speaker or, as the case may be, the Chairman shall, unless he decides that no such question has arisen, refer the question to the Election Commission within thirty days and should he fail to do so within the aforesaid period it shall be deemed to have been referred to the Election Commission.”
While, Article 63(3) reads: “The Election Commission shall decide the question within ninety days from its receipt or deemed to have been received and if it is of the opinion that the member has become disqualified, he shall cease to be a member and his seat shall become vacant.”
The Toshakhana case
Last year, the PIC had accepted an application by Islamabad-based journalist Rana Abrar Khalid and directed the Cabinet Division to “provide the requested information about the gifts received by [then] prime minister Imran from foreign head of states, head of governments and other foreign dignitaries … description/specification of each gift, information about the gifts retained by the PM and the Rules under which gifts thus received are retained by him”.
The Cabinet Division was told to share the required information within 10 working days and upload it on the official website as well.
Subsequently, the Cabinet Division had challenged the PIC order in the Islamabad High Court (IHC), claiming that it was “illegal, without lawful authority”. The then-government took the stance that the disclosure of any information related to Toshakhana jeopardises international ties.
In April this year, the IHC had directed Deputy Attorney General Arshad Kayani to ensure the implementation of the PIC order to publicise details of the gifts presented to former prime minister Imran by heads of states since he assumed office in August 2018.
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