Islamabad: Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan on Saturday challenged in Islamabad High Court the top election body’s decision to disqualify him from holding public office for five years in the Toshakhana case for hiding proceeds from the sale of gifts he received from foreign leaders.
The 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician lost membership of the parliament, as well as, barred from contesting elections for five years after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday found him guilty of hiding the proceeds from the sale of precious gifts.
He filed an appeal in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) through his counsel Barrister Ali Zafar.
Zafar appealed to the court to take up the case immediately for a hearing on Saturday.
The IHC accepted the appeal but observed that the matter was not urgent to be dealt with on the same day as the application was filed and set the hearing on Monday.
The Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief in his appeal said that the ECP had no power to make decisions on corrupt practices or disqualify people, requesting the court to suspend the body’s ruling until the final decision on the appeal.
The filing of the appeal put Khan on a path to go through a gruelling legal battle to regain his political turf in the wake of his disqualification.
However, there is confusion about whether the five-year disqualification would apply only to the five years term of the current assembly, or whether the disqualification period would start from the date of the verdict by the ECP.
The tenure of the current national assembly began in August 2018 and would be completed in 2023. Khan already tendered his resignation as a lawmaker in April but it was not accepted.
In this case, his disqualification would end with the expiry of the tenure of the assembly.
In his recorded message issued after two back-to-back meetings of his party soon after the damning verdict, Khan rejected the charges and vowed to contest his disqualification legally and not through street protests.
Dawn newspaper in a report about Khan’s upcoming legal battle said that his party had announced to challenge the disqualification before the Islamabad High Court (IHC), but Khan has to face another trial before a sessions judge as the ECP has forwarded a complaint against him for submitting false declarations about concealing the gifts.
According to a member of the party’s legal wing, since there were fears of such an adverse verdict from the ECP, a pre-emptive petition has already been drafted by Senator Syed Ali Zafar, the head of the party’s legal team.
However, the PTI has yet to cross the initial threshold of legal scrutiny of the petition.
Another hurdle in securing an immediate hearing would be the absence of the ECP’s written order, which is yet to be signed by all four members of the bench and their head, as at least one of them was away due to illness.
The PTI legal team’s basic objection to the ECP’s verdict is that in their opinion it was issued in haste and the commission did not wait for the ailing member of the bench to return.
The party’s other objection is that the ECP hearing was a Corum non-judice, meaning a legal proceeding that is outside the purview of a particular forum.