Islamabad 21, October 2022: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has disqualified Imran Khan in Toshakhana reference against former prime minister and PTI chief Imran Khan, over a month after it was reserved.
Strict security measures are in place at the ECP ahead of the ruling.
According to a notice issued by the ECP on Thursday, the verdict was expected at 2pm, and the ECP has directed all relevant parties or their counsels to appear before it at its secretariat in Islamabad.
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 Toshakhana 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.
Strict security measures are 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”.
PTI criticises ECP ahead of ruling
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.
PTI Senator Ejaz Chaudhry, leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Barrister Ali Zafar, Imran’s counsel in Toshakhana reference address a press conference on Friday. — DawnNewsTV
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!”