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IHC suspends Imran, Bushra Bibi’s sentences in Toshakhana case

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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended on Monday former premier Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi’s sentences in the Toshakhana case.

The decision came as the high court heard the ex-premier and his wife’s appeals against the sentences.

At the outset of the hearing, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq asked whether the appeal was scheduled for hearing today. The judge then remarked that the court would not hear the appeal today, asking the parties to argue the suspension of the sentence instead.

However, PTI’s counsel Barrister Ali Zafar said he would argue the appeal instead of the suspension.

At this, the judge observed that the cypher case conviction appeal was scheduled for tomorrow; it will be wrapped up soon. “We cannot hear the Toshakhana case today, and schedule it for tomorrow,” he stated.

Justice Farooq further observed that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is to begin its arguments in the cypher case, and “we don’t know how long they will take”. The judge maintained that the court would schedule the hearing of the Toshakhana case after Eid.

Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb inquired from the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) prosecutor regarding his stance on the sentence being suspended. In reply, the prosecutor stated that the verdict had been looked into and it was a case of suspension of sentence.

The court commended NAB on the stance taken and expressed its appreciation.

The counsel for the PTI founder prayed to the court to not only suspend the sentence but also suspend the verdict in the case. However, Justice Miangul stated that the matter of the verdict itself was under review at the apex court.

Later, the IHC suspended the sentence in light of the NAB’s stance, that the decision pertained to suspending the sentence.

Toshakhana conviction

On January 31, an accountability court judge found the PTI founder and his spouse guilty of misusing the state’s gift repository during Imran’s tenure as prime minister and sentenced them to 14 years in prison.

The court also slapped a fine of Rs787 million each on the accused individuals in what is being described as the most swiftly concluded trial in accountability courts’ history.

In a reference filed in December 2023, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had accused the former PM and his wife of retaining precious gifts received during Imran’s terms as the country’s chief executive in violation of the prescribed protocol.

Interestingly, another trial court on August 5, 2023, disqualified Imran Khan and sentenced him to three years in prison for not disclosing the gifts he received as the prime minister in his statements of assets and liabilities submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)

Islamabad Accountability Court-I Judge Muhammad Bashir presided over the trial on NAB reference inside Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail, where Imran Khan has been detained since September last year.

Two days before announcing the sentence, the judge deprived the accused of their right to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses in view of the delaying tactics employed by the defense.

Toshakhana case

The crux of the accusations revolves around Imran and Bushra allegedly retaining gifts received during their official visits to foreign countries while Imran served as the prime minister.

Instead of following the prescribed official protocol by depositing these gifts in the Toshakhana, the couple purportedly kept them and contributed an amount less than the stipulated value into the national treasury.

Bushra, in particular, is accused of holding on to various jewellry items received as gifts during official visits. The list of allegedly retained gifts includes a locket, two rings, two ear tops, and two bracelets received on June 26, 2019.

In 2020, she reportedly acquired a diamond-studded gold necklace, ring, bracelet, and ear tops. The list expanded in 2021 with the addition of a necklace, earrings, ring, and bracelet.