Pakistan election body defers Khan’s indictment in contempt case

The former prime minister Imran Khan, 71, has been in jail since August 5

By PTI

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Security officers escort Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan, as he appeared in Islamabad High Court, Islamabad, Pakistan May 12, 2023. — Reuters file
Security officers escort Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan, as he appeared in Islamabad High Court, Islamabad, Pakistan May 12, 2023. — Reuters file

Published: Tue 19 Dec 2023, 10:19 PM

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday once again deferred the indictment of ex-premier Imran Khan and former federal minister Fawad Chaudhry in a case pertaining to contempt of the electoral body and the chief election commissioner (CEC).

A four-member bench of the ECP arrived at the Adiala Jail on Tuesday, where both Imran Khan and Fawad are incarcerated, to charge sheet the politicians.

Imran Khan, 71, has been in jail since August 5, when he was arrested after a conviction in the Toshakhana case.

The ECP on December 6 decided to conduct Khan and Fawad’s jail trial in light of the interior ministry’s denial to produce the former premier before the commission, citing security concerns.

Last year, the electoral body had initiated contempt proceedings against the PTI chief, former party leader Asad Umar and Fawad for allegedly using “intemperate” language against the chief election commissioner and the electoral watchdog.

However, instead of appearing before the ECP, the three had challenged the ECP notices and contempt proceedings in various high courts arguing that Section 10 of the Elections Act 2017, which is the statutory provision regarding the commission’s power to punish for contempt, was against the Constitution.

The PTI leaders had also sought from the high courts a declaratory relief from the charges.

But in January, the Supreme Court allowed the ECP to continue proceedings against Khan, Fawad and Umar, and on June 21, the ECP decided to frame charges against the trio, which has yet to be done.

Fawad was arrested from Islamabad on November 4 in a corruption case and has been in custody ever since.

At the previous hearing, the electoral watchdog had announced that it would conduct indictment proceedings against the former premier and the ex-information minister in jail and asked the Ministry of Interior to make necessary arrangements.

In the latest development on Tuesday, the ECP bench deferred the indictment and adjourned the hearing till December 27.

Speaking to media outside Adiala Jail, Imran’s lawyer Shoaib Shaheen said Imran Khan’s petition challenging the jail trial was pending before the Lahore High Court. He contended that orders for the trial were passed without any lawful authority.

“This is an open trial case, only the place of hearing has changed,” he said, adding that the case could be heard transparently only when the media was present.

Shaheen further demanded that the media, public, family members and lawyers should be allowed to attend the indictment proceedings. He also complained that Imran Khan’s legal team was not allowed to enter the jail on Tuesday with the complete case record.

Separately, Fawad, through his counsel Faisal Chaudhry, submitted a plea to the ECP on Tuesday seeking an open trial for the contempt proceedings.

“The proceedings in central jail Adiala are not open, transparent and are in square violation of law and the Constitution,” the former PTI leader contended.

Fawad said the ECP had a constitutional duty to extend the constitutional rights to the applicant in letter and spirit.

“It is also strange and shocking that the learned members of the ECP have decided to start proceedings in jail, that in the applicant’s firm opinion is not in accordance with the stature and respect of a constitutional body such like,” he said in the plea.

Fawad alleged that “to victimise the political opponents the trials behind the jail walls have become the order of the day”.


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