Anti-corruption watchdog gets 8-day remand in Toshakhana graft case

Islamabad: An anti-corruption court in Pakistan on Wednesday sent former prime minister Imran Khan on an eight-day physical remand to the National Accountability Bureau while a sessions court here indicted him in a separate graft case.

The 70-year-old chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was taken into custody by the paramilitary Rangers on Tuesday on the orders of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) by barging into a room of the Islamabad High Court.

Khan was produced in the Anti-Accountability Court No. 1 presided by judge Muhammad Bashir, the same judge who had convicted former premier Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam in a corruption case of having properties in London. Maryam was later on set free in the case by the Islamabad High Court. However, Sharif’s case is still pending.

At the start of the hearing, the NAB lawyers requested the court to grant a 14-day remand of Khan to probe the allegations against him in the Al-Qadir Trust case in which he is accused of looting Rs 50 billion of the national treasury. But Khan’s lawyer opposed the plea and asked the judge to release him as the charges were fabricated.

Khan was arrested on Tuesday in the case, sparking massive country-wide protests by his supporters.

After hearing arguments from both sides, the court reserved its ruling.

Later, announcing the reserved verdict, the accountability court sent Khan on an eight-day physical remand to the NAB.

In his statement, Khan told the accountability court that he was fearful for his life, the Express Tribune newspaper reported.

“I have not been to the washroom in 24 hours,” he said.

Khan requested the court to grant his doctor Faisal Sultan access to him.

“I am afraid I will meet the same fate as ‘Maqsood Chaprasi’,” Khan said, referring to a witness in Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s money laundering case who died due to a cardiac arrest last year. Khan’s party had termed the witness’ death ‘mysterious’.

Khan was also presented in the District and Sessions Court where judge Humayun Dilawar indicted him in the Toshakhana corruption case.

He has been in the dock for buying gifts, including an expensive Graff wristwatch, he received as the premier at a discounted price from the state depository called Toshakhana and selling them for profit.

Established in 1974, the Toshakhana is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division and stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats, and officials by heads of other governments and states and foreign dignitaries.

The case was filed last year by the Election Commission of Pakistan and Khan had skipped several hearings in the past months.

The New Police Guest House located in the high security premises of Police Lines Headquarters at Sector H-11/1 area of Islamabad was declared as a court for the purpose of hearing two cases against the former cricketer-turned-politician.

Citing sources, Geo News reported that a medical report submitted to the NAB showed that Khan has been declared fit and he did not complain of any pain to the doctors examining him.

Elaborate security measures were put in place to stop PTI workers and supporters getting anywhere near the hearing facility. Even the media was not allowed to enter the area and even leading PTI leaders were barred from witnessing the hearing or meeting their leader.

Those not allowed to enter include PTI Senior Vice President Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Secretary General Asad Umar. The two in protest went to the Islamabad High Court to file a plea against the police decision to stop them from seeing Khan.

However, before any legal process was launched, Umar was arrested by the anti-terrorism squad of Islamabad police as two new cases have been launched against him for the violence by the PTI protests after the arrest of Khan.

Later, in a video message Qureshi said that attempts were made to arrest him by the police in Islamabad.

“They were successful in arresting Asad Umar sahib but I escaped by going inside the court […] I am now at a safe location and am recording my message,” he said.

Addressing PTI supporters and activists, he asked them to hold peaceful demonstrations across the country.

Earlier, Qureshi said the party was working to secure Khan’s release, asserting that arrests and intimidation “will not deter us”.

Khan’s party also filed a petition in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, challenging the Islamabad High Court’s ruling on Tuesday night which backed his arrest.

“An application in the Supreme Court was filed by barrister Ali Zafar and PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry challenging the verdict of the IHC against Imran Khan,” the Dawn reported.

The Islamabad High Court on Tuesday night upheld the arrest of Khan, saying that all legal formalities were fulfilled by the NAB while carrying out his arrest.

Meanwhile, the federal government has decided to deploy the Pakistan Army troops in Punjab to maintain the law and order situation in the most populous province, which witnessed violent protests in several cities following Khan’s arrest on Tuesday.

The decision was taken at the request of the Punjab government, according to a notification issued by the federal government.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority said that internet services across the country will remain suspended for an indefinite period. It confirmed that the decision to block mobile broadband services was taken on the directives of the Interior Ministry.

The services were shut down as protests erupted after Khan’s arrest.

Khan’s party has claimed that at least four people were killed and over a dozen injured in different parts of the country in violent clashes between the security forces and PTI supporters.

In Peshawar, protests and attacks on installations continued on the second day on Wednesday and one person died in clashes between police and protesters in the cattle market at Bacha Khan Chowk in the city.

The enraged protestors entered the Radio Pakistan, Peshawar building and ransacked the offices.

The Peshawar Cantonment and roads leading to Corps Headquarters and house of Corps Commander in Peshawar were sealed. All educational institutes have been closed till Monday.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has written a letter to the federal government seeking the deployment of armed forces in the province.