The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) took a unanimous decision to prohibit former Prime Minister Imran Khan from holding any public office due to his “corrupt practices”. Khan cannot henceforth be an MP for the rest of his life.
Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) rejected the ruling of the ECP instantly and called on supporters to hit the streets. Faisal Fareed Chaudhry, a member of the PTI’s legal team, said the party was waiting for the detailed verdict before filing an appeal to the Islamabad High Court.
Chaudhry said the party planned to question the commission’s scope to deliver such a verdict. “We will challenge their jurisdiction, their mandate in issuing this decision,” he said.
Why Imran Khan has been banned
A member of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) had filed this case against Imran Khan in August, alleging that the former prime minister had bought gifts given by foreign dignitaries from the state gift depository (also called Toshakhana) but did not disclose the assets in the declarations submitted to the commission.
Speaking to reporters after the verdict, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry called the commission’s decision “embarrassing” and a “slap in the face” of the people of Pakistan. “This verdict is not an attack on Imran Khan only. It is an attack on Pakistan’s constitution and its people,” he said.
Khan, who was removed from his office in April through a parliamentary vote of no confidence, accused the commission of bias and has singled out its chief, Sikandar Sultan Raja, of prejudice against him and his party.
After the sacking of his government, Khan has been holding rallies across the country, demanding early polls. His narrative has won him large swathes of support, as the PTI won big in by-polls which took place in July and October.
The Toshakhana controversy erupted last year with the revelation that Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi had bought gifts from the Toshakhana and later sold them in the market at discounted rates.
The PTI, which was the governing party at the time, had initially expressed reluctance to reveal the details of the gifts given to Imran Khan, claiming it could potentially jeopardise Pakistan’s foreign relations.
The gift depository is a government department created in the 1970s. The Toshakhana stores such gifts that were given to rulers, lawmakers, government officials and functionaries by heads of states and other foreign dignitaries.
According to the rules that govern the Toshakhana, all gifts must be submitted to the department. However, they can later be bought. While selling these gifts is not strictly illegal, many consider it unethical and morally wrong.
The case filed against Imran Khan said the former prime minister had received a total of 58 boxes containing various items during his time in office. PMLN petitioner Mohsin Nawaz Ranjha said the former prime minister was legally required to declare all assets belonging to him, his wife and dependents to the commission at the end of every financial year.
The reference argued that failing to do so rendered Imran Khan “dishonest” and thus disqualified him from participating in parliamentary politics for life under the Pakistani constitution.
Imran Khan was accused also of “deliberately” hiding the gifts that he bought from Toshakhana, but later confessed to having sold these gifts, without disclosing the details to the commission.
In a landmark ruling five years ago, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had declared the PLMN chief Nawaz Sharif, the then prime minister, “dishonest”, which led to his removal from office as well as being barred from parliamentary politics for life.