Islamabad Court forms special division bench to hear appeal of Imran Khan, his wife and Shah Mahmood Qureshi

The IHC division bench, comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, will hear the appeals on Monday.
Imran Khan.
Imran Khan.

ISLAMABAD [Pakistan]: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Saturday formed a special division bench to hear the appeals of former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, his wife Bushra Bibi, and former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday against their convictions in the cipher and Toshakhana cases, Pakistan-based Dawn reported.

Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi have challenged the conviction and their 10-year sentences each in the cipher case. Imran Khan and Bushra Bibi filed appeals against their conviction in the Toshakhana case. The court has sentenced them to 14 years imprisonment each and asked them to pay a fine of Pakistani Rupees (PKR) 1.54 billion.

The IHC division bench, comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, will hear the appeals on Monday. The appeal against conviction in the cipher case stated that the arrest and remand hearing that took place on August 16, 2023, was conducted in the "most objectionable, clandestine, and secretive manner."

The IHC division bench said that the prosecution did not produce the complete record before the trial court against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan, and the judge indicted Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi in haste, according to the Dawn report.

In the appeal, the two leaders recalled that the IHC division bench had to scrap the trial court proceedings twice due to the "glaring illegalities. However, Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain allegedly concluded the trial without following the mandatory procedural requirements.

The appeal stated that Imran Khan and his lawyer extended all cooperation to the trial court and did not seek unnecessary adjournment to linger on the court proceedings. However, the judge did not ensure a fair trial and the "proceedings were hurried through by the court at a breakneck speed for reasons known only to the court itself," and the trial ended in less than 20 days.

According to the appeal, the defence council cross-examined four prosecution witnesses, and the case was adjourned to January 25 when a counsel appeared before the Islamabad High Court and another lawyer had to travel to Lahore for dental surgery, Dawn reported. The case was adjourned to January 27 when the judge appointed state lawyers for Pakistan's former PM Khan and Foreign Minister Qureshi.

According to the appeal, Khan and Qureshi strongly objected to "these so-called state counsels without their consent but to no avail." The two leaders then requested the court to make a call to their lead counsel to seek assistance in cross-examination. However, the trial court refused to wait for him.

In the appeal, it was mentioned that the trial in the cipher case was shifted to a "secret room" and concluded in a "very short span of time." The appeal in the Toshakhana case alleged that the trial was carried out in violation of the fundamental right to a fair trial, according to Dawn report.

The appeal stated that Imran Khan, Bushra Bibi and their lawyers cooperated with the court. However, Judge Muhammad Bashir on January 29 "suddenly and illegally" closed their right to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses.

The appeal said the lead counsel, Sardar Latif Khan Khosa, was contesting the polls and had already requested general adjournment from the Supreme Court and high courts. However, the trial court denied his request.

According to the appeal, the alternative lawyer Zaheer Abbas was not given reasonable time to prepare for the arguments as the court was "under some undue pressure to decide the case before Feb 8, 2024," which was the date of Pakistan elections, Dawn reported.

The appeal stated that defence counsel on January 30 sought to restore cross-examination. However, the request was not approved, and the judge adjourned the hearing until January 31, when he announced the judgement without even recording the statements of Imran Khan and Bushra Bibi under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code. It said the accountability judge convicted Imran Khan "in a haphazard manner, bypassing the procedure and settled practice [and] under apparent/visible pressure."

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