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The South Asian Insider

Pak court suspends Imran Khan's 3-year sentence but he will remain in jail



Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's three-year sentence in a corruption case was suspended by a Pakistan court on Tuesday. However, he will continue to remain in jail in a case related to the alleged disclosure of state secrets by him.

(News Agency) - Imran Khan's three-year sentence in the Toshakhana corruption case was on Tuesday suspended by a high court, which ordered his release from jail, but Pakistan's embattled former premier will continue to remain in prison in a separate case related to the alleged disclosure of state secrets by him.
A division bench comprising Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Aamir Farooq and Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri announced the much-anticipated reserved verdict to release Khan, leaving many to guess if it is a relief ahead of elections or just a stopgap arrangement to fix him in another case.
"All we are saying now is that (Khan's) request has been approved," Justice Farooq said, referring to the former premier's appeal against his conviction and prison term.
Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party said the decision of the district court has been suspended by the high court.
The bench also ordered the release of the 70-year-old former cricketer-turned-politician on the production of surety bonds worth Rs 100,000.
IMRAN KHAN TO REMAIN IN JAIL
However, the former prime minister will continue to remain in prison as a special court holding his trial in the Official Secrets Act directed the Attock Jail authorities to keep him in the "judicial lockup" and produce him on August 30 before the court.
His deputy and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is already in custody in the same case.
The case launched earlier this month alleged that Khan and others were involved in the violation of the secret laws of the country.
The high court bench reserved the verdict on Monday after the rival lawyers concluded their arguments on the suspension of the conviction and three-year sentence handed down to Khan by Additional District and Session Judge, Islamabad, Humayun Dilawar on August 5 - a ruling that barred him from contesting general elections.
Khan was sentenced on charges of unlawfully selling state gifts acquired by him and his family during his 2018-2022 tenure. He was also barred from politics for five years, preventing him from contesting an upcoming election.
The main issue for supporters of the former premier is if he would be allowed to lead the party in the forthcoming elections.
According to experts, it depends on settling the issue of his disqualification.
"He was disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan after conviction in the Toshakhana case and the disqualification is not affected by mere suspension of sentence," senior lawyer Irfan Qadir said in a TV interview.
He said that the disqualification was linked with the decision of the appeal by Khan against conviction. Others believe that disqualification has also been suspended. "When sentence is suspended, the disqualification is also suspended," lawyer Qauseen Raza said.The matter may ultimately land in the high court or the supreme court of the country to decide if disqualification was suspended or not.
PAKISTAN ELECTIONS
General elections are scheduled to be held in Pakistan within 90 days after the dissolution of the National Assembly, which was prematurely dissolved on August 10 by President Arif Alvi. However, the polls are likely to be delayed as the government has announced that the elections could take place only after a new census is completed and new constituency boundaries are drawn.
The exercise could take about four months to complete which means that polls may be delayed till next year.
The government's announcement had come on the same day when Khan was arrested after being sentenced to three years in prison for "corrupt practices".
Khan challenged his conviction within days and the IHC began a formal hearing on August 22. It adjourned the case on Friday after the lawyer representing the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) did not appear due to illness.
Khan's lawyer Latif Khosa completed his argument on Thursday, asserting that the verdict was given in haste and was full of shortcomings. He urged the court to set aside the sentence but the defence team demanded more time to complete its arguments.
His party welcomed the IHC verdict, with party Information Secretary Raoof Hasan saying that Khan's arrest in any other case after the suspension of his sentence in the Toshakhana case would be "ill-intentioned and mala fide".
"We are fortunate to be witnessing the re-scripting of Pakistan's political and legal history," he said, adding that "justice shall prevail".
However, former premier Shehbaz Sharif expressed its displeasure at the court's order saying that the sentence was suspended and "not terminated".
"The Chief Justice of Pakistan's message of 'good to see you' and 'wish you good luck' has reached the IHC," he said, claiming that "everyone knew about the verdict before it was even announced".
"This moment is a matter of concern for our justice system," Shehbaz said. "If a clear message is received from the higher judiciary, what else should the subordinate court do?"
Separately, a three-member Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail is also set to resume hearing petitions against the Toshakhana case.
On Wednesday last, the apex court after hearing various petitions against the Toshakhana case observed that there were "shortcomings" in the judgment of the sessions court.
The panel observed that the verdict was given in haste and without giving the right of defence to the accused. "Prima facie, there are shortcomings in the trial court verdict," the chief justice said.
The apex court had also stated it would wait for the IHC hearing before giving its judgment. It resumed the hearing Thursday but adjourned it without fixing any date after it was told that the IHC was holding a hearing.
TOSHAKHANA CASE
The Toshakhana case was filed by ruling party lawmakers in 2022 in the ECP, alleging that Khan concealed the proceeds from the sale of state gifts.
The ECP first disqualified Khan and then filed a case of criminal proceedings in a sessions court which convicted him and subsequently, Khan was sent to jail.
Khan is currently in Attock Jail following his arrest from his Lahore home.
The case alleges that Khan had "deliberately concealed" details of the gifts he retained from the Toshakhana - a repository where presents handed to government officials from foreign officials are kept - during his time as the prime minister from 2018 to 2022 and proceeds from their reported sales.
As per Toshakhana rules, gifts/presents and other such materials received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division.
According to reports, Khan received 58 gifts worth more than Rs 140 million from world leaders during his three-and-a-half-year stint and retained all of them either by paying a negligible amount or even without any payment.