On Thursday, Additional District and Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal announced that he would prevent the Islamabad police from arresting Imran Khan, the Chairman of PTI, in the Toshakhana case if the former Prime Minister surrenders himself in court.
During the hearing of the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) reference that seeks criminal proceedings against Imran for hiding the details of Toshakhana gifts, the judge made the aforementioned statement.
The sessions court had scheduled Imran’s indictment in the reference on February 28, but his lawyer requested that he be excused from the hearing as he had to attend other courts. Imran’s indictment was postponed several times following this.
Subsequently, the judge issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Imran and directed the police to present him in court by March 7. However, Imran managed to evade arrest and later appealed to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to revoke the warrants.
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) granted some relief to Imran by directing him to appear in the sessions court by March 13. However, the former Prime Minister failed to appear yet again, resulting in ADSJ Iqbal re-issuing non-bailable arrest warrants for Imran on Monday and ordering the police to bring him to court by March 18.
On Tuesday, when the police arrived at Imran’s Zaman Park residence in Lahore to execute the warrant, they were met with resistance, sparking two days of intense clashes between PTI supporters and law enforcement agencies. The situation eventually de-escalated after the courts intervened on Wednesday.
On the same day, PTI challenged the latest arrest warrants for Imran in the IHC, but the plea was rejected. The court directed Imran to provide an undertaking to the trial court, confirming his attendance at the hearing on March 18.
On Thursday morning, ADSJ Iqbal resumed the hearing of the case, with Imran’s lawyers Khawaja Haris Ahmed and Babar Awan present on his behalf.
At the beginning of the proceedings, the judge remarked that the court had not yet received the high court’s directives as per judicial procedures.
ADSJ Iqbal suggested that the court should issue a notice to the ECP regarding the case being maintainable, to which Haris asked if it was necessary to arrest his client to bring him to court.
The judge commented that Imran Khan had to assist the police according to the law, not resist them, and that had the warrants been bailable, there would have been no issue.
Haris read the IHC’s order out loud in court, but the judge stated that the arguments presented by the counsel were for bailable warrants.
ADSJ Iqbal pointed out that there already was a surety in the case and that the court order should not be affected by any illegal actions.
Haris argued that a surety had already been submitted, and Imran was ready to give an undertaking as well.
He proposed two options to the court: the first was to accept the undertaking and cancel the non-bailable arrest warrants, and the second was to take a surety and issue bailable arrest warrants.
Haris clarified that Imran wanted to give an undertaking to appear in court on March 18.
ADSJ Iqbal remarked that the arrest warrant issued for Imran had become the most expensive warrant in the world.
Haris urged the court to cancel Imran’s warrants, and he also requested that the ECP lawyer be issued notices and called for arguments.
Imran’s lawyer presented his undertaking in court and requested that the non-bailable arrest warrants for him be cancelled.
However, the judge issued notices to the secretariat police and ECP and summoned them to court. The hearing was subsequently adjourned till 12 pm.
When the hearing resumed, the ECP’s representative requested the court to adjourn the hearing till 2:20 pm. Hasan requested the police to cancel the PTI chief’s arrest warrants given the present situation outside Zaman Park.
Haris insisted that the court had the authority to cancel the warrants in the prevalent circumstances. The judge found the “obstruction” in Imran’s arrest “strange” and it wasn’t required.
Haris asked the court to view the case in light of the IHC’s orders and then take a decision. The court again adjourned the hearing till 2:30 pm. ADSJ Iqbal emphasized that political workers should be told that they need to cooperate with the law and not resist it.
The Toshakhana Case
Last year, lawmakers from the ruling coalition filed a reference alleging that Imran did not disclose details of the gifts he retained from the Toshakhana, a department that stores gifts given to rulers and government officials by heads of other governments and foreign dignitaries.
The reference also claimed that Imran did not declare the proceeds from the reported sales of the gifts during his time as prime minister.
On October 21, 2022, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) concluded that Imran had made false statements and incorrect declarations regarding the gifts, and as a result, he was disqualified under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution.
According to Toshakhana rules, gifts received by persons to whom these rules apply must be reported to the Cabinet Division.
Subsequently, the ECP approached the Islamabad sessions court with a copy of the reference and sought proceedings against Imran under criminal law for allegedly misleading officials about the gifts he received from foreign dignitaries during his tenure as prime minister.