‘Trial in haste’: Legal experts, political analysts react to Toshakhana verdict

“A lot of questions are being raised on trial in haste," says senior journalist Mazhar Abbas Imran Khan (R), along with his wife Bushra Bibi (L), looks on as she signs surety bonds for bail in various cases, at a registrar office in the Lahore High Court on July 17, 2023. — AFP

An accountability court in Islamabad Wednesday sentenced Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi to 14-year jail time with rigorous punishment in the Tohsakhana reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The court has also imposed a fine of Rs1.5 billion on the couple and disqualified the former premier from holding public office for 10 years.

Reacting to the sentence handed over to the former prime minister and the first lady, Hamid Khan, a senior lawyer and PTI leader, said that the party will appeal against both convictions and pursue legal recourse in line with the Constitution.

Responding to a question about Imran refusing to accept the decision as it was issued in haste, Hamid said: “There have been all kinds of legal violations [in the case]. For instance, his lawyers were separated from him since Monday. They closed the evidence and didn’t allow counsels to make arguments.”

The senior lawyer added that the court, on its own, appointed two defence counsels from the prosecution and quickly made them conduct cross-examination in the case. “It cannot even be termed cross-examination. They only filled the file. The trial was not conducted accordingly to the law.”

He said that the case was only rushed by the judges — who seem under compulsion — to be wrapped up quickly before the elections. “The evidences were recorded even after court hours ended, even though it usually gets adjourned to the next working hours.”

He added that the court was apparently “under pressure”, as it neither cared about court hours nor its procedures nor the constitutional rights of the accused to provide them with a fair trial and due process.

‘Questions will be raised’

Commenting on Khan and Bushra Bibi’s sentence, senior journalist Mazhar Abbas said that questions will be raised on the timing of the sentence. “A lot of questions are being raised on trial in haste.”

He added that Khan received a 10-year sentence in a different case and this 14-year sentence in another and what kind of reaction would PTI supporters show in such a situation.

“It was expected [for Khan] to receive sentences in both cases. But would these cases be politically accepted among Khan’s supporters and independent people,” he questioned.

Abbas maintained that politics in our part of the world is polarised, as positions are taken in politics. “Because of which I don’t think that the workers and supporters will have any particular reaction to the case. They will look at it from the legal aspect.”

The party will consider legal recourse and look towards the high courts and Supreme Court in this regards, he said.

Highlighting the recent removal of PTI leader Latif Khosa from Khan’s legal team by the PTI founder, Abbas said: “The non-seriousness from PTI lawyers is also a reason for concern. Even today, when the verdict was expected, PTI lawyers were not present.”

Right to pursue other courts

Sharing his viewpoint on the verdict, legal expert Mustafa Ramdey said the accused reserved the right to pursue legal options against the decision.

“The accused have the right to approach the high court against the sentence.”

‘Khan ineligible for any position’

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Faisal Karim Kundi, when reacting to the verdict, said PTI founder is not eligible for any position, highlighting his insignificant position in the upcoming general elections which will be held on Febraury 8. 

“The founder of PTI is not in the electoral field at the moment.”

He predicted that most of the independent candidates, competing on PTI’s behalf will join other parties in the general polls.

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