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Indictment deferred after Imran Khan skips Toshakhana case hearing

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  • PTI chief’s lawyer files exemption plea on health grounds.
  • ECP directed to provide attested copies of evidence, complaint.
  • Lawyers of PTI and ECP engage in verbal duel.

ISLAMABAD: A sessions court in the federal capital Tuesday deferred the indictment of former prime minister Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief skipped today’s hearing citing health reasons.

Additional Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal pronounced the verdict reserved earlier in the day after the PTI chief filed a fresh petition seeking exemption from personal appearance.

Accepting the plea, the judge directed the legal team of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to provide attested copies of the evidence and complaint. A new date for the framing of charges will be announced later.

The reference was filed by the ECP in November last year, praying the court to proceed against the PTI chief under criminal law for allegedly misleading officials about the gifts he received from foreign dignitaries during his tenure as prime minister.

The ECP had requested that the PTI chief be convicted for the offences mentioned under sections 167 (corrupt practice) and 173 (making or publishing a false statement or declaration) of the Elections Act 2017.

It added that as per the record, the state gifts were purchased from the Toshakhana for Rs21.5 million on the basis of their assessed value, while they were valued at around Rs108 million.

On January 31, the judge had directed the PTI chairman to submit surety bonds of Rs20,000 to ensure his appearance today for indictment in the case.

Today’s hearing

At the outset of today’s hearing, the PTI’s legal team filed a petition on behalf of Imran Khan seeking exemption from personal appearance citing health reasons.

The PTI chairman is recuperating from wounds he sustained in a gun attack on November 3 during a rally.

The judge asked the PTI lawyer about the surety bonds. To this, he informed the court that they had submitted the bonds a day earlier.

“How can we frame charges if exemption pleas are filed again and again?” the judge asked.

Imran Khan’s lawyer, Barrister Ali Zafar, argued that they had not been provided attested copies of the evidence and complaint.

At this, ECP’s lawyer said that they had provided the said documents in front of the court. However, the judge directed the lawyer to ensure that all the required material is provided to the defence.

During the proceedings, the ECP lawyer asked, “Why did Imran Khan not appear before the court?”

“We have seen him dancing on the container.”

At this, Zafar warned the ECP representative from making such statements.

He also requested the court to fix any date after February 15 for an appearance.

“Give us a date when Imran Khan will appear” the judge inquired.

“He will come if he is able to,” the counsel responded.

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PTI received unwelcome respite, according to Rana Sanaullah

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In the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) reserved seat dispute, the government would respect the majority ruling of the Supreme Court, according to PMLN senior leader and advisor on political affairs Rana Sanaullah Khan.

He stated that after examining the decision, the government’s legal team would react appropriately. According to Rana Sanaullah, the legal team would determine whether or not to submit a review petition.

“SIC petitions were rejected but PTI was given that relief which was neither asked in the petition nor contest during the proceeding,” asserted Rana Sanaullah in response to the ruling.

He argued that because parties established administrations with a simple majority, the PMLN-led unity movement did not have a two-thirds majority.

According to Rana Sanaullah, PTI should challenge election tribunal rulings, with the government carrying out the rulings.

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The membership of Sher Afzal Marwat has been suspended by PTI.

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According to sources, PTI officials convened with imprisoned party founder Imran Khan on Thursday to make a decision over Marwat.

The party authorities alleged that Sher Afzal Marwat had been consistently breaching party discipline over the past month.

“In the meeting with Imran Khan, it was mutually agreed that no leader holds a superior position within the party, and any other leaders who deviate from the party’s stance will face similar consequences,” they stated.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has recently issued a show-cause notice to Sher Afzal Marwat due to his irresponsible utterances.

The notice, issued by PTI Secretary General Omar Ayub Khan, requires Marwat to provide an explanation for his utterances within a three-day period. These statements have been considered harmful to the party’s reputation.

The notification declares that making such utterances goes against the party’s code of conduct and contravenes the explicit directives of the party’s founder, Imran Khan, who has underscored the significance of accountable conduct.

Marwat was cautioned that if they fail to react or offer a satisfactory explanation, it could result in additional disciplinary measures.

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Supporting phone tapping for “national security,” Khawaja Asif

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In the continuous fight against terrorism, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif has stated that he is a strong supporter of security agencies’ phone tapping practices.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, particularly party head Omer Ayub, criticized and engaged in contentious arguments following Asif’s statements.

The significance of phone tapping for national security was emphasized by Khawaja Asif in an interview with a foreign media source. “Terrorism is the enemy that we fight. Given the circumstances, I will be in favor of phone tapping,” he said.

Noting that the phone tapping matter is presently being handled through the legal system, he further urged that everyone support the measure. “Phone tapping is necessary for national security,” he asserted.

By highlighting the PTI’s erratic position on the issue, the defense minister also rejected the party’s concerns as hypocritical.

Every action, whether legal and illegal, seemed acceptable to Imran Khan, the founder of the Pakistan Taliban, when he was on good terms with the authorities.” Asif said, “The same thing is hateful to his followers today.”

In order to prevent terrorism and protect national security, Asif emphasized the importance of phone tapping. Under the present conditions, I will be in favor of phone tapping. The fight against terrorism required it, he declared. In these difficult circumstances, he also urged detractors to think about the wider effects of security precautions.

After former prime minister Imran Khan complained about his phone being tapped, Asif hinted that the PTI’s present protests are politically motivated by pointing to earlier instances in which they had a positive relationship with the establishment.

For the purpose of maintaining national security and preventing any criminal activity, the central government granted Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the nation’s premier spy agency, permission to tap phones on July 8. A notification stating that Section 54 of the Pakistan Telecommunication Act 1996 permits ISI to record phone calls has been issued. Anything that falls under the notification category can be recorded by it.

The notice included a call recording feature in addition to the ability to track messages and calls. Subject to the prime minister’s approval, ISI personnel ranked 18th or higher are granted this authority. It will be feasible to record WhatsApp calls, SMS, and other applications in addition to cell calls, the release states.

Notably, on June 30, Justice Babar Sattar of the Islamabad High Court said that it is legally unlawful to monitor civilians in any way in the case of the audio leaks involving the son of former chief justice Saqib Nisar and Bushra Bibi. According to his ruling, the prime minister and the cabinet bear both collective and individual responsibility for the widespread surveillance of four million citizens carried out by the federal government through the system.

The prime minister should acquire intelligence agency reports and bring the issue before the cabinet, the court judgment stated. Furthermore, according to the decision, the prime minister must report to the court on the Lawful Management System within six weeks.

“The prime minister will tell whether the surveillance of citizens is going on against the law and constitution,” the court stated.

Along with identifying who is in charge of the surveillance system that is interfering with citizens’ privacy, he should also disclose who installed the Lawful Interception Management System and mass surveillance. By July 5, all telecom firms were ordered by the court to submit their reports about the Lawful Interception Management System.

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