Politics in Pakistan is based on an element of vindictiveness which often tends to make the creator or supporter of a particular law, victim of his own doing. This vicious political cycle has affected the lives and careers of several prominent politicians in the country and would now come to haunt former Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The accusations against Khan in the Toshakhana case is far more complex than it appears and is a matter of serious concern for the former premier. While on the face of it, the case might not appear as part of a major corruption scandal involving embezzlement of crores of state funds, it nevertheless hinges on a principle stand adopted by the Supreme Court on need for earnings to be declared by politicians, including Prime Ministers.
In the case of Nawaz Sharif, the Supreme Court had disqualified him from participating in national politics for life, which also became the basis for his removal from the post of Prime Minister. In the Sharif case, the accusation against him was for having not declared a certain amount which he was to have received (but had not yet received) from certain sources. The initial part of the Supreme Court declaration in the case had mentioned: “It is hereby declared that having failed to disclose his unwithdrawn receivables constituting assets from XYZ sources in his nomination papers filed for general elections held in 2013, Sharif remains disqualified from being member of Parliament as per Article 62(1)F of the Constitution.”
It is worth noting that in the Nawaz Sharif case, even though he had not received the said amount, the fact that he was due to receive the amount, and had consciously avoided declaring the same in the statement of returns before the Election Commission, led the Supreme Court to come up with, what many members of the Pakistani legal fraternity considered as, a ‘controversial’ and ‘harsh’ decision. However, the fact remains that the decision was implemented and Nawaz Sharif was removed from position. Members of the PTI and PML-Q celebrated the occasion appreciating the decision of the Supreme Court.
According to reports, Khan had earned around 36 million PKR by illegally selling three watches gifted to him by foreign dignitaries to a local watch dealer. Apparently, Khan during his tenure as prime minister earned millions of rupees from these jewel-class watches collectively worth over 154 million PKR. The watches were gifted to him by foreign leaders. The most expensive watch, of more than 101 million PKR value, was apparently retained by Khan at 20 per cent of its value after his government amended the Toshakhana rules and settled the gift retention price at 50 per cent (not 20 per cent) of its original value. Moreover, he did so without ever declaring the gifts to the Election Commission and getting them evaluated.
If Nawaz Sharif was considered ‘dishonest’ by the Supreme Court for not declaring an amount he had not received, in the case of Khan his having received a certain amount from the sale of gifts received by him during his foreign tours and not declaring the same, poses an ever more serious threat to Khan. The precedence thus set by the Supreme Court would be a challenge to Khan to deal with. The more sinister aspect of the Khan case is that on receiving the costly gifts, he failed to declare them to the Toshakhana and retained them with him before disposing them.
Khan had received most of the gifts in 2018 during his foreign travels and should have ideally declared these in the 2019 statement of returns. Likewise, he did not declare the gifts received in 2019 in the 2020 statement of returns, thus committing a serious act of “dishonesty” towards the nation and the people of Pakistan.
Even though the Supreme Court decision against Nawaz Sharif was considered ‘drastic’ and ‘unusual’ and was criticised by the legal fraternity and political analysts, the fact remains that the Supreme Court decision has become a precedence and remains in place. Moreover, considering Nawaz Sharif had to give up the post of Prime Minister and has been banned for life from participating in elections, based on this decision of the Supreme Court, there is no reason why the same norms would not apply in the case of Khan.
The Sharif brothers would ensure that Khan is not spared on this count even though Khan would try to exploit his support base in the public domain to create strong opposition against the decision. The situation undoubtedly looks bleak for Khan as his fate now remains in the hands of the judiciary and the establishment.
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