An Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) bench has started hearing the Toshakha reference against PTI Chief Imran Khan, who faces lifelong disqualification from holding public office if petitioners proved their claims.
At least six petitioners, including Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha and Ali Gohar, have claimed that Imran Khan failed to disclose the state gifts he retained from Toshakhana, or state repository, in his statement of assets and liabilities. They have sought Khan’s lifelong disqualification under Article 63 of the Constitution.
On Thursday, when the hearing began, Khan’s lawyer first claimed that he had not received documents related to the case and then said that Imran Khan was no longer a member of the National Assembly; hence, he could not be issued notices in the disqualification reference.
The lawyer said that Imran Khan had announced in early April that he had resigned from his NA seat and if an MNA does not go back to the legislator after announcing their resignation they are deemed to have resigned.
Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja said that legal documents show that Imran Khan was still an MNA and that PTI leaders had repeatedly said that the ECP was not accepting their resignations.
When the lawyer brought up resignations once again, the CEC expressed displeasure and told Khan’s counsel that he must refrain from making political statements.
The lawyer was told to produce any resignation that former Deputy Speaker NA Qasim Suri had forwarded to the ECP.
On this, the lawyer sought time to submit his response to the reference, and the ECP bench adjourned the hearing for August 23.
On April 9, when the National Assembly passed a no-confidence motion against Imran Khan, the PTI announced that at least 123 of its MNAs, including Imran Khan, were resigning from their seats. Then-Deputy Speaker Suri announced that he had accepted all the resignations.
However, later it turned out that the resignations were not duly approved by the deputy speaker or forwarded to the ECP.
Earlier this month, Mohammad Mian Soomro, who was among 123 MNAs named by the PTI to have resigned, submitted a leave application to current NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.
Speaking to reporters, Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha said that Imran Khan could be disqualified by the same principle that was applied in the case of PMLN’s Nawaz Sharif, who faces a lifelong bar on holding public office.
Ranajha said that Imran Khan used to tell his opponents to provide a money trail for their assets, but the time had come when he was required to produce receipts.
The lawmaker said that if Nawaz Sharif could be disqualified for not showing a ‘receivable’ salary in his statement of assets and liabilities, then Imran Khan faced a much more serious charge because he had told blatant lies.
What is Toshakhana reference
Under electoral laws in Pakistan, every lawmaker is required to disclose all their wealth, including moveable and immovable properties, before the ECP in a statement of assets and liabilities that must be filed every year and must reflect the change in the wealth on yearly basis.
Documents revealed in the past few months show that Imran Khan retained gifts from Toshakhana and then sold them on the market, earning money. But he failed to disclose the gifts retained in 2018 in his statement of assets back then.
Khan declared some of the gifts before the ECP in 2021 only when retention of Toshakhana items became a big controversy — although they were retained in 2018 in the first six months into his government.
While Khan paid 20% of the original price to retain some of the gifts, he took home several items — worth as much as Rs800,000 without paying a penny, SAMAA TV reported.