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Pakistan election commission disqualifies former Prime Minister Imran Khan | Imran Khan News

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Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan’s electoral commission (ECP), in a unanimous decision, found former Prime Minister Imran Khan guilty of “corrupt practices” and disqualified him from parliament.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party quickly rejected Friday’s decision and urged its supporters to take to the streets.

Faisal Fareed Chaudhry, who is part of PTI’s legal team, told Al Jazeera they are awaiting the detailed decision before filing an appeal with the Islamabad High Court. He also said they plan to question the scope of the commission’s making such a decision. “We will challenge their authority and authority to make this decision,” he said.

The lawsuit against Khan was filed in August by a member of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN), alleging that the former prime minister had purchased gifts given by foreign dignitaries from the state gift warehouse (also called Toshakhana), but did not disclose their existence. In the declarations submitted to the commission

Chaudhry described the ECP’s decision as “shameful” and “slap in the face” for the Pakistani people.

“This decision is not just an attack on Imran Khan. It is an attack on the constitution and people of Pakistan,” he said.

Khan, who was removed from his post by a vote of no confidence in parliament in April, accused the commission of being biased and accused its chairman, Sikandar Sultan Raja, of being biased against him and his party.

Khan is calling for snap elections, holding rallies across the country after his government is overthrown. His narrative won him wide areas of support, as the PTI won a major victory in the July and October by-elections.

The duration of the disqualification was not immediately clear. Kanwar Dilshad, a former federal secretary of the commission, told Al Jazeera that the decision meant Khan was “disqualified for now.”

“My view is that the decision is valid for this parliamentary session, which will last until August 2023. This means that despite winning the latest polls, it will not be able to enter parliament,” he said.

Dilshad also added that the commission has a broad mandate, allowing the institution to hear a case regarding corrupt practices and send it to court if found guilty.

Toshakhana controversy

The Toshakhana controversy erupted last year when it was revealed that Khan and his wife, Bushra Bibi, purchased gifts from Toshakhana and then sold them at discounted prices in the market.

PTI, the ruling party at the time, said it was reluctant to reveal details of the gifts given to Khan, claiming it could potentially endanger Pakistan’s foreign relations.

A gift warehouse is a government agency created in the 1970s that stores gifts given to rulers, politicians, government officials, and officials by heads of state and other foreign dignitaries.

Toshakhana rules state that all gifts must be presented to the department. However, they can be purchased later. While selling gifts is certainly not illegal, many find it unethical and morally wrong.

The lawsuit against Khan said the former prime minister received a total of 58 boxes containing various items during his tenure.

Mohsin Nawaz Ranjha, petitioning from PMLN, said the former prime minister is legally required to declare to the commission all assets belonging to him, his wife and their dependents at the end of each financial year.

The reference argued that failing to do so rendered Khan “dishonest” and thus disqualified him from participating in parliamentary politics for life, according to the Pakistani constitution.

Khan was also accused of “deliberately” hiding gifts he received from Toshakhana, but later admitted to selling those gifts without disclosing the details to the commission.

In a landmark decision five years ago, the Supreme Court declared then-Prime Minister and PLMN chief Nawaz Sharif “dishonest”, leading to his dismissal and a lifetime ban from parliamentary politics.

Lahore-based political analyst Mehmal Sarfraz said the commission’s decision hurt Khan “politically”.

“His image has always been an honest man but now the label of ‘corrupt apps’ will stay with him. Of course, just because PTI has been after the ECP and the chief election commissioner for some time doesn’t mean their supporters will buy it, so they will see it as a ‘biased’ decision,” he added.

However, Sarfaraz said, “When Nawaz Sharif was disqualified, PTI congratulated it for benefiting them.

“It may now be asked whether Khan will remain as party chairman because Sharif was not allowed to continue running his party after disqualification.”

Legal expert Hasnaat Malik also painted a potentially troubling picture for the PTI chief in the coming days.

“The ECP that took part in the decision sent the case to the court of first instance. “But if Khan is found guilty of corruption in court, he could face a maximum of three years in prison,” he said.