Non-bailable arrest warrant against Pakistan’s ousted PM Imran Khan suspended till March 13 in Toshakhana case

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday suspended till March 13 the non-bailable arrest warrant against Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Imran Khan for his failure to appear before a sessions court here for the fourth time in the Toshakhana case.
The IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq, announcing the verdict that he reserved earlier in the day, directed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief to appear before the district and sessions court on March 13, rejecting a plea by Khan’s lawyer to give four weeks for appearance before the court in the case.
Khan, 70, has been in the crosshairs for buying gifts, including an expensive Graff wristwatch he had received as the premier at a discounted price from the state depository called Toshakhana, and selling them for profit.
Khan on Tuesday for the fourth time skipped a hearing at the sessions court, citing health and security reasons.
The former premier’s counsel Sher Afzal Marwat, who appeared before the court, said Khan was unwell and “disabled” after being injured in the Wazirabad attack.
Marwat said a “global spectacle” was created regarding the PTI chief, whose party on Monday challenged in the IHC the arrest warrant issued against him for not appearing before the court.
Requesting the court to give a date next week for hearing the matter, Marwat maintained that he would provide the power of attorney within “a day or two”.
Taking to Twitter on Tuesday, Khan slammed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government and said it was behind a total of 76 legal cases – so far – raised against him.
“This is what happens when a bunch of criminals is imposed on a nation by those who are devoid of intelligence, morality, and ethics,” he tweeted.
The PTI chief on Monday moved the IHC against the non-bailable arrest warrant ordered by the Islamabad sessions court in the Toshakhana case.
His lawyer Ali Bukhari in the petition before the IHC requested a cancellation of the warrant, arguing that it was “illegal” to issue a non-bailable warrant.
The IHC then gave Khan another opportunity to choose a date to appear before the courts in the Toshakhana (gift depository) reference.
The court also remarked that the warrants were not issued for arrests but to frame charges against Khan.
“You appear in court for the framing of charges and then request for an exemption,” Justice Farooq said. “The law is the same for everyone. What can the court do?
“The court has to adopt a legal procedure,” he added, maintaining that Khan had to appear in the sessions court today (Monday) but he did not.
“You tell, when will he appear?” the judge asked. “Imran Khan has to appear before me as well. He can come on March 9 and appear before the sessions court too.”
Here, the PTI lawyer said that Khan had severe security threats to which the judge replied that the court’s judges received threats “every day” and asked if he should shut down the IHC because of it.
Khan’s lawyer stated that he would consult with the PTI chief and get “instructions” on what to do next “within half an hour”. The counsel announced that he would speak to Khan over video-link due to “security concerns”.
The court adjourned the hearing for half an hour.
The Islamabad sessions court had earlier on Monday rejected the request to cancel Khan’s arrest warrant.
Khan had argued that the withdrawal of the summons would enable him “a fair opportunity to appear and defend himself” in the case, but the justice said the PTI chief “willfully avoided” his appearance.
Khan has earlier thrice skipped indictment hearings in the Islamabad sessions court in the case.
In his assets declarations, he is accused of concealing details of the gifts he retained from the Toshakhana — a repository where presents handed to government officials from foreign officials are kept.
The Islamabad sessions court judge had on February 28 issued arrest warrants against Khan and adjourned the hearing till March 7.
On March 5, an Islamabad police team was sent to Khan’s Zaman Park residence in Lahore with the court summons. However, the police returned empty-handed after the PTI chief evaded the arrest.
Separately, Islamabad Police on Monday registered a case against Khan and 150 of his party workers for obstructing law enforcement agency officials from implementing a court order against the ousted prime minister in the Toshakhana case.
The police faced stiff resistance from PTI activists outside Khan’s Zaman Park residence.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in October last year ruled that he made “false statements and incorrect declarations” regarding Toshakhana gifts.
The ECP, later on, asked the Islamabad sessions court to proceed against Khan under criminal law for hiding the sale of gifts.
Khan was ousted from power in April after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China, and Afghanistan.
Khan, who came to power in 2018, is the only Pakistani Prime Minister to be ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

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