LAHORE: Former chairman and founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan on Thursday challenged in Lahore High Court (LHC) his five years disqualification by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the Toshakhana case.
Single judge bench comprising Justice Shujaat Ali Khan will take up the plea of the former premier for hearing on Friday (tomorrow).
The fresh petition was filed by PTI Chairman Gohar Ali Khan and Ali Zafar on behalf of Imran Khan.
The ECP has been named as a respondent in the petition. It urged the court to declare the electoral watchdog’s notification disqualifying Imran “unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional”.
The petition also urged the LHC to suspend the ECP’s notification till the final disposal of the case. “In the meanwhile, this court may kindly be pleased to suspend the operation of impugned notification dated August 8, 2023, till final disposal of the titled petition,” it said.
The petition also added that the court may grant “any other relief as deemed just and appropriate” in favour of the petitioner.
The plea said the ECP took illegal action in haste to disqualify Imran from contesting the next general elections, adding that the allegations levelled against the petitioner were baseless.
The petitioner claims that he desires to participate in next general elections for which the date has already been notified [by the ECP] on orders of the Supreme Court.
Back in August, the ECP had, through a notification, cited an Islamabad trial court’s order and disqualified the former PTI chairman under Article 63(1)(h) of the Constitution read with Section 232 of the Elections Act, 2017.
A day earlier, the trial court had, while hearing ECP’s complaint against the PTI chairman, sentenced him to three years imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs0.1 million for concealing details of Toshakhana gifts.
The trial court had found the former PTI chief guilty of “corrupt practices by hiding the benefits he accrued from the national exchequer willfully and intentionally”.
“He cheated while providing information of gifts he obtained from Toshakhana which later proved to be false and inaccurate. His dishonesty has been established beyond doubt,” the court had stated in its order.
Following the trial court’s verdict the PTI founder technically stood disqualified from holding any public office for five years under Article 63(1)(h) of the Constitution, which stipulates, “A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Parliament if he has been, on conviction for any offence involving moral turpitude, sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years, unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release.”
In its notification, the ECP had cited the trial court’s order and declared Imran disqualified under Article 63(1h) of the Constitution, read with Section 232 of the Elections Act, 2017.
The article deals with disqualifications for members of parliament. Clause 1h states that a legislator can be disqualified if they are convicted of “any offence involving moral turpitude, sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years, unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release”.
“Therefore, Mr Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi is disqualified for a period of five years and is also de-notified as a returned candidate from constituency NA-45 Kurram-I,” the notification had said.
It should be noted that on August 29, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had suspended Imran’s sentence in the case.