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Whether Imran Khan can remain PTI boss is now a question mark

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan can no longer retain the post of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief after his conviction in the Toshakhana case, according to Zulfiqar Ahmad Bhutta, an eminent lawyer of Pakistan Supreme Court, Geo News reported citing The News.

This comes after the PTI chief was convicted and arrested in the Toshakhana case after a district and sessions court in Islamabad found him guilty of selling state gifts in violation of laws.

Khan is accused of misusing his position as prime minister to sell state gifts worth more than Rs140 million ($490,000) that he received from foreign dignitaries during visits abroad.

The senior lawyer said that the conviction has sealed Khan’s fate as the party chairman, as per a judgment by the SC on a constitutional petition filed by PTI itself in the past.

“He will not be able to maintain his position as the chairman of his political party due to his involvement. Imran Khan’s status as PTI chairman has ended automatically in the light of the Supreme Court decision in PLD 366/2018 (Zulfiqar Ahmad Bhutta, PTI, Pakistan Peoples Party, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, Jamaat-e-Islami) etc. vs. Federation of Pakistan case),” Geo News quoted the lawyer as saying.

He further said that he had filed a petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution in the Supreme Court after the conviction of former PM Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers case,

The petition stated that a person who has been found guilty by a constitutional court and convicted, if he is the head of a political party, he should also be disqualified from being the head of the party, otherwise, despite being convicted, he will continue to play a role in politics and he will control his party, Geo News reported.

Election tickets will be issued to the candidates only with the convicted leader’s signatures and on the letter written by him to the election commission, the defecting members of his party can also be disqualified, he added.

“After my application was filed, 15 parties including PTI chief Imran Khan and his right-hand Sheikh Rasheed, PPP and JI etc. also filed constitutional petitions based on the same request,” Geo News quoted the lawyer as saying.

Later, a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan issued a decision after hearing the Supreme Court PLD 366/2018 Zulfiqar Ahmad Bhutta et al that a person found guilty cannot be the head of any political party, he said.

The lawyer further said that Khan and Rasheed used to come personally to the apex court because of their interest in pursuing the case.

A spokesman for PTI said the party would now be led by vice chairman and former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Geo News reported.

This comes after a Pakistan district and sessions court on Saturday sentenced Imran Khan to three years in prison in the Toshakhana case — for illegally selling state gifts — and has disqualified from politics for a period of five years, local media reported.

Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Humayun Dilawar in a short order said, “The court finds its more than convincing that the complainant (ECP) had provided confidence-inspiring, well-knitted and corroborated evidence, and so the charge against the accused has successfully been proven that the accused has committed offence of corrupt practices by making and publishing false statements/declaration in respect of assets acquired by way of gifts from Toshakhana and disposed of during years 2018-2019 and 2019-2020,” according to Dawn.

Meanwhile, Imran Khan’s arrest came approximately three months after his first arrest on May 9 when he was arrested in Islamabad in the Al-Qadir Trust case.

His arrest on May 9 sparked widespread violence and important military installations came under attack. In May, PTI leaders and workers took to the streets to hold protests against his arrest.

The Toshakhana case, filed by ruling party lawmakers, is based on a criminal complaint filed by the ECP. The case alleges that Imran Khan had “deliberately concealed” details of the gifts he retained from the Toshakhana during his tenure as Pakistan Prime Minister and proceeds from their reported sales, the report said.

According to Toshakhana rules, gifts and other materials received by persons to whom these rules are applicable shall be reported to the cabinet division. Imran Khan has faced a number of legal issues over his retention of presents and it resulted in his disqualification by the ECP.

Also read: Why Imran Khan’s arrest may only be the beginning of his troubles