A local court in Islamabad is set to resume on March 18, the hearing of the Toshakhana case against former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who avoided arrest despite a protracted effort by law enforcement personnel to apprehend him for skipping multiple previous hearings.
Also Read: Islamabad court suspends non-bailable arrest warrant against Imran Khan in Toshakhana case
Mr. Khan, the 70-year-old chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, is scheduled to appear before the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Zafar Iqbal to attend proceedings on the complaint filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for allegedly concealing details of gifts in his assets declarations.
Accompanied by a convoy of his party workers, the PTI chief has departed from his residence in Zaman Park, Lahore, and is en route to Islamabad, the Dawn newspaper reported.
Supporters of former Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan gather around his car as he leaves his residence in Lahore on March 18, 2023. | Photo Credit: AFP
Stringent security measures have been put in place outside the judicial complex in Islamabad’s G-11, where Mr. Khan is expected to arrive by noon.
A large contingent of police has been deployed to the area to provide security for Mr. Khan, who survived an assassination attempt in November last year.
The Islamabad administration on March 17, night imposed Section 144 in the capital, prohibiting private companies, security guards, or individuals from carrying weapons. It is mandatory for drivers to carry their vehicle registration documents while driving.
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In the last hearing on March 16, the court rejected Mr. Khan’s plea seeking the suspension of non-bailable arrest warrants issued for him.
However, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on March 17, suspended non-bailable arrest warrants issued for Mr. Khan, providing him with a chance to appear before the trial court on March 18.
During the March 17 hearing, Mr. Khan’s lawyer Khawaja Haris submitted an undertaking by his client, assuring it that the PTI chief would appear in court on March 18.
Mr. Khan has been in the crosshairs for buying gifts, including an expensive Graff wristwatch he had received as the Premier at a discounted price from the state depository called Toshakhana and selling them for profit.
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Established in 1974, the Toshakhana is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet division and stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats, and officials by heads of other governments and States and foreign dignitaries.
Mr. Khan was disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in October last year for not sharing details of the sales.
The election body later filed a complaint with the district court to punish him, under criminal laws, for selling the gifts he had received as Prime Minister of the country.
Mr. Khan has skipped several hearings in the case.
The PTI chief has been resisting arrest in the Toshakhana case, holed up inside his Zaman Park residence in Lahore, surrounded by hundreds of his supporters, who have fought pitched battles with the police and Rangers over the past few days, resulting in injuries to more than 60 people, mostly policemen.
The clashes ultimately subsided after the courts intervened on March 8, a day after which Mr. Khan's supporters placed shipping containers outside the main entrance of his residence and equipped themselves with clubs and slings to protect the former Premier from any further police action.
As police laid siege to his Lahore residence, Mr. Khan had once again rushed to the IHC with a petition against the arrest orders.
The IHC refused to intervene and asked the lawyer to go to the district court and give a commitment that Mr. Khan would appear on March 18 when the court had scheduled a hearing of the case.
Mr. Khan appeared before Lahore High Court on March 17, and assured that he was ready to present himself on March 18, before the judge handling a corruption case against him, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry told media persons on March 17, adding that “an undertaking has also been given to the court”.