ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday reserved its verdict in the Toshakhana case against former premier Imran Khan after hearing arguments from both the sides and gave his party six more weeks to submit a reply to the show-cause notice issued in PTI’s prohibited funding case.
Mr Khan had formally admitted before the ECP just a few days ago that he sold four gifts, received from foreign dignitaries, during the first year of his term as prime minister. His response revealed that he fetched Rs58 million from the sale of gifts he procured from the state treasury (Toshakhana) after paying Rs21.56m.
A five-member bench of the ECP, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, heard the case.
Barrister Ali Zafar, while appearing before the bench as counsel for Mr Khan, said his client had sold the four presents he had received during 2018-19, but all those gifts were paid for in accordance with law and challan forms of all such purchases were provided. “Those gifts which were sold, their proceeds were deposited in bank account and were declared in tax returns. Tax was paid on those proceeds of sale. All gifts which were not sold were also declared in tax returns,” the lawyer said.
The commission was reminded that all the gifts, proceeds and bank accounts were also declared in the statement of assets filed with ECP.
On the legal status of the reference seeking Mr Khan’s disqualification over alleged concealment of assets, he said the reference was filed under Article 62(1)f by the speaker. “This article says that if there is a declaration by a court of law that a person is not honest then and only then the person can be disqualified. There are many judgements on this point. These judgements also say that ECP is not a court of law and cannot give a declaration under Article 62(1)f. Therefore the reference has to be rejected,” he argued.
He argued that even if the ECP instituted proceedings over the returns in question, which were filed in 2018, the period of limitation in the case has lapsed, and that the commission could not take any action in this regard.
Even if in a given case, he said, any action had to be taken under Section 137 of the Elections Act, the ECP could only send it to the tribunal for trial and could not decide the disqualification itself.
PML-N counsel Khalid Ishaq drew the commission’s attention to the point that Mr Khan had been asked about reasons for not declaring the gifts, while in his reply he only admitted to receiving the gifts and not disclosing them.
He quoted the PTI chief as saying in his response that he did not declare daily necessities. “One cufflink that Imran did not declare is priced at Rs5.7 million,” the lawyer said.
When the ECP member from Sindh, Nisar Durrani, remarked it was possible that a mistake might have been made in the declaration of assets, the PML-N counsel said the ‘mistake’ should have been acknowledged.
At one point, the counsel for the PML-N said Mr Khan had provided the receipts of his London flat, but did not provide the same for the gifts he had received.
Prohibited funding case
Separately, in the prohibited funding case, the ECP gave PTI six more weeks to respond to its show-cause notice after the party’s lawyer informed the commission that for a comprehensive reply they needed eight weeks as 10-yead-old record was being brought from abroad.
The counsel for the PTI, Shah Khawar, claimed many overseas Pakistanis had been shown as foreigners in the ECP ruling in the case. Even the party’s US chapter had been declared a foreign company, he said. On this, the CEC remarked that a company registered abroad would be called a foreign company.
While referring to the main case that lingered since 2014 due to repeated adjournments sought by the PTI, the CEC initially refused to give more than a month, but on the insistence of the party lawyer adjourned the hearing till Nov 6.