ISLAMABAD: Imran Khan has had another setback in his legal stand-off with the government after a request to cancel the non-bailable arrest warrant issued against the chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the Toshakhana case was rejected.
The verdict was announced by Additional District and Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal after the hearing of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) reference, which seeks to initiate criminal proceedings against the former prime minister for withholding information about foreign gifts.
The judge ruled that the warrants could not be cancelled on the basis of an undertaking promising to ensure his appearance in court on charges of misusing his office to sell state gifts.
Earlier in the day, Judge Iqbal had offered to prevent the police from arresting Khan in the case if he surrendered in court.
The case centres on a government department known as Toshakhana — which during the Mughal era referred to the treasure houses kept by the subcontinent’s princely rulers to store and display gifts lavished on them.
Government officials must declare all gifts to the Cabinet Division, but are allowed to keep those below a certain value.
More expensive items must go to Toshakhana under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division, but in some cases, the recipient can buy them back at around 50 percent of their value — a discount Khan raised from 20 percent while in office.
The ruling coalition of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) parties has for months alleged Khan and his wife, Bushra Maneka, received lavish gifts worth millions during trips abroad. They included luxury watches, jewellery, designer handbags and perfumes.
The sessions court had initially planned to indict Khan in the reference on February 28, but his lawyer requested an exemption from the hearing, citing his client’s need to appear in several other courts. Khan’s indictment was repeatedly deferred following this.
Subsequently, the judge issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Khan and instructed the police to present him in court by March 7. However, Khan managed to evade arrest and approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to request the cancellation of the warrants.
During the hearing, Judge Iqbal asked whether the election commission should be notified of the case’s maintainability. The judge also expressed his dismay about Khan’s absence from the court and inquired about the concept of an undertaking.
The counsel for Khan, Khawaja Haris Ahmad, asked if his client could be brought to court without an arrest. The judge refused to cancel the non-bailable arrest warrant, but said that he would halt any attempt to arrest Imran if he surrendered in court.
The hearing was adjourned until 12:00 pm, and notices were issued to the ECP and the Secretariat police.