A trial court in Islamabad issued on Monday a notice to PTI chairman Imran Khan and summoned him tomorrow (November 22) in the Toshakhana Reference, in which the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had disqualified him.
The reference alleging that Imran had not shared details of the gifts he retained from the Toshaskhana and proceeds from their reported sales was filed by lawmakers from the ruling coalition in August. Last month, the ECP had concluded that the former premier had indeed made “false statements and incorrect declarations” regarding the gifts — a ruling that prompted widespread protests by the PTI.
The watchdog’s order said Imran stood disqualified under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution.
Earlier today, ECP submitted a copy of the reference in court requesting criminal proceedings be initiated against the former premier. It will be heard by Additional Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal tomorrow.
In the reference, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, District Election Commissioner Waqas Ahmed Malik said that Imran had furnished the required documents of his assets and liabilities for the years 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 within the stipulated period of time.
He recalled that a reference regarding the matter was sent to the ECP by the National Assembly speaker. It stated that Imran “deliberately concealed” his assets during the years 2018 and 2019 when he was the prime minister.
Malik said that to verify these claims, the commission obtained Imran’s statement of assets and liabilities from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the Toshakhana record of gift items through the Cabinet Secretariat.
“From the perusal of the record, it reveals that for the year 2018-2019 the gift items were purchased on the payment of Rs21,564,600 from the Toshakhana on the basis of assessed value. The total value of gift items was Rs107,943,000.”
He stated that the gift items and their sale were not shown in Imran’s statement of assets and liabilities submitted to the ECP, and neither was any other explanation about the sale of the gifts was provided.
Also, the district election commissioner noted, Imran had failed to add the details of the cash and bank account of the sale proceeds in the relevant Form-B sections.
“The commission found that the respondent [PTI chief] had submitted false and incorrect statements and false declarations regarding his statements of assets and liabilities submitted before ECP.”
He added that while deciding on Imran’s disqualification had directed criminal proceedings to be initiated against the former premier under sections 137 (submission of statement of assets and liabilities), 167 (corrupt practice), and 173 (making or publishing a false statement or declaration) of the Elections Act, 2017.
Malik subsequently prayed that a sentence of conviction should be passed against Imran and upon conviction he should be imprisoned for at least three years along with a fine.
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 NA 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.
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.
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 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.