Former prime minister Imran Khan, in his fresh response to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday, expressed “deep regrets over his unintentional utterances” in the contempt proceedings initiated against him for his controversial remarks about district and sessions judge Zeba Chaudhry, who had approved PTI leader Shahbaz Gill’s physical remand in a sedition case.

In the last hearing of the case on Aug 31, the high court had summoned Imran and his lawyers on Sept 8 (Thursday).

Imran had submitted his original reply to the IHC on Aug 30, wherein he expressed his willingness to “take back” his words about judge Chaudhry if they were “regarded as inappropriate” and pleaded before the IHC that the judges who had agreed to initiate the case against him should consider withdrawing themselves from the bench as, according to him, they had pre-judged the matter.

In his reply, submitted through counsels Hamid Khan and Barrister Salman Safdar, he had asked the court to examine the contents of his speech in the context of his intention.

The reply had explained that Imran was under a misconception that judge Chaudhry was an executive magistrate carrying out executive or administrative functions on the federal government’s orders.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah had said he was expecting for Imran to admit his mistake. “I was expecting that you would go to the courts and say that you trust them (the courts),” adding that Imran’s detailed response disappointed him.

Later, the IHC had given Imran another chance to submit a “well-considered” response in the contempt proceedings against him.

The PTI chief, in his fresh reply, stated that what he said was “unintentional” and not meant to be directed towards the female judge for whom, he stated, he has a “lot of respect”.

“The respondent never meant to hurt her feelings and if her feelings have been hurt, it is deeply regretted. The respondent neither meant to threaten the female judge nor could he think of doing so,” reads a reply.

The ex-PM said he firmly stood for the rights of women in Pakistan and strongly supported the idea of greater induction and representation of lady judges, both in the superior as well as the subordinate courts.

Imran said he would not shy away from expressing his remorse to the female judge.

“Those utterances were never meant to interfere with or in any way influence the course of administration of justice.”

The PTI chief acknowledged that courts all over Pakistan were adhering to the rule of law and the Constitution.

Imran also explained in his reply that he was not aware that Gill’s case was still pending before the court, especially after the judge granted his physical remand. “The respondent believed that after the physical remand of Gill was approved, the matter had ended there,” the reply submitted by him reads.

The PTI chief made the explanation as the court had also reprimanded Imran in the last hearing for commenting on the [Shahbaz Gill] case which was sub-judice.

The respondent has been briefed about the technical rule of the subjudice matter and its effect on freedom of speech as laid down in Firdous Ashiq Awan case, the reply said, as he assured he will be “very careful about such matters in future”.

He remarked that he was not aware of the implications of such a statement.

Imran also referred to the remarks of PML-N leaders Talal Chaudhry and Danial Aziz against the courts— who were charged with contempt by the SC in 2018, saying they never expressed any remorse or offered an explanation for their statements.

“Their statements were a calculated campaign to undermine the Supreme Court and scandalise the Supreme Court judges in the aftermath of the Panama Case,” Imran wrote in his reply, saying the two leaders were praised by their leadership for their “heroic sacrifices and now they are the faces of the party”.

In his reply, Imran insisted that his “reference to the lady judge and other officers during his speech was spontaneous and in the spur of the moment and was not calculated to personally attack any judicial officer or the judiciary in any manner whatsoever”.

He urged the IHC to discharge the show-cause notice issued to him and dispose of the contempt matter.

Imran calls Toshakhana reference ‘misuse of power’

Separately, the PTI chief submitted a 60-page written response to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the Toshakhana reference today.

The reference was filed against the former premier by the coalition government, for not sharing details of Toshakhana gifts and proceeds from their alleged sale.

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.

According to Toshakhana rules, gifts/presents and other such materials received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division.

On August 4, lawmakers from the Pakistan Democratic Movement — which is part of the ruling alliance — filed a reference for the PTI chief’s disqualification from public office under articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution over his hesitance to share the details of Toshakhana gifts.

During the hearing today, heard by a five-member bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, PTI counsel Ali Zafar submitted Imran’s reply.

In it, the PTI chief said that the case against him was based on “mala fide intentions and political motives”, alleging that it was the “misuse of power” and the Constitution.

He said that his government received 329 gifts during its three-and-a-half-year tenure out of which 58 were received by the former prime minister and his wife. These gifts included watches, pens, decoration pieces, small carpets, table mats, perfumes, tasbih (prayer beads), vases, paperweights, pen holders, cufflinks, rings, bracelets, pendants, and works of art.

“The amount of the gifts have been deposited in the bank and are mentioned in the statements,” Imran revealed, contending that the allegations of hiding assets were baseless and wrong.

Furthermore, he maintained that no member of the National Assembly had declared their assets as of yet.

The PTI chief also said that the ECP could not disqualify a person under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution. The law, which sets the precondition for a member of parliament to be “sadiq and ameen” (honest and righteous), is the same provision under which former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by a five-judge SC bench on July 28, 2017, in the Panama Papers case. Likewise, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Jahangir Tareen was disqualified by a separate bench of the apex court under the same provision.

“It stands settled by the Supreme Court that ‘Election Commission cannot
declare the member disqualified under Art.62(1)(f)’. That only a ‘court of law’ can make determination regarding Art.62(1)(f),” Imran said in his reply today.

Subsequently, the former premier also urged the commission to discontinue the case.

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