The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has reportedly decided to challenge the disqualification verdict against its chief and former Prime Minister Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case. Reuters reported that Faisal Chaudhry, a counsel in Khan’s team, said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had no jurisdiction in the case and a challenge would be filed in a high court.
Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse on Friday, PTI leader Fawad Hussain Chaudhry called the verdict a “shameful decision” and one that has “disgraced the 220-million-strong-nation”.
Chaudhry said the ECP’s attitude has always been the “worst” and that his party never “pinned any hopes on it”, Geo News reported.
“They are only targeting Imran Khan…Who are you [ECP] to take this decision?” he was quoted as saying.
Several other PTI leaders lashed out at the ECP verdict, and among them was Khan’s former special assistant Shahbaz Gill, who alleged the decision was taken by a servant of former PM Nawaz Sharif.
“Nawaz Sharif has written this verdict and his menial worker has signed it and announced it…This decision is written by a fugitive and the nation rejects it,” he said.
Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is the younger brother of Nawaz.
PTI leaders Asad Umar, Shafqat Mehmood and Babar Awan took to Twitter to slam the verdict. In a post on the micro-blogging site, Umar said that the verdict will “soon be challenged in the court and their (the ruling regime) dream of ‘minus Imran Khan’ will never come true”, according to the Geo News report.
The ECP ruled that Khan is no longer a member of the National Assembly, and also barred him from holding a public office.
The ruling has triggered unrest in Pakistan, with several PTI workers and supporters taking to streets to protest the same. They blocked the main road and set tyres on fire, leading the traffic to a standstill. In a series of tweets, Islamabad Police stated that right to protest is a “legal right” but blocking roads and damaging state property was against the law.
“The governments of other provinces are requested to stop the movement of illegal protests headed for the federal capital,” one of the tweets read.
Meanwhile, the security of the ECP has been beefed in Islamabad’s red zone, The Nation reported.
What is the case?
National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf had sent a reference to the ECP in August 2022, seeking Khan’s disqualification in wake of the Toshakhana scam, in which the former PM was accused of misusing his premiership to buy and sell gifts in state possession that were received during visits abroad and worth over 140 million Pakistani rupees ($635,000).
The 28-page reference identified as many as 52 gift items of Toshakhana received by Khan. The assessed value of the gifts – received between Augist 2018 and December 2021 – has been put at ₹142,042,100.
What did the ECP verdict say?
In the written ruling, the ECP said Khan had “intentionally and deliberately” violated the provisions in Sections 137, 167 and 173 of the Elections Act, 2017, as he “has made false statement (sic) and incorrect declaration before the Commission in the statement of assets and liabilities filed by him for the year 2020-21”, according to Dawn.com.
Following the fresh verdict, Khan could also lose his position as the PTI boss based on a 2018 ruling by the Pakistan’s Supreme Court wherein it had said that an individual disqualified under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitutions could not serve as a political party’s head.
Khan, 70-year-old cricketer-turned politician, has, however, denied the charges.