Toshakhana Case: Imran Khan’s Jail Term Echoes Pak’s History of Imprisoning Its Ex-Prime Ministers – Apna TPO

With the arrest and sentencing of PTI Chief Imran Khan in the Toshakhana corruption case on Saturday, Pakistan continues to uphold its notoriety for imprisoning former prime ministers while avoiding any action against military dictators who have repeatedly violated the Constitution.

Toshakhana Case

Khan, the chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, was arrested from his Zaman Park residence in Lahore following a three-year prison sentence issued by an Islamabad-based sessions court. The charges against him involve concealing the proceeds from the sale of state gifts from the Toshakhana.

The Toshakhana, a department under the Cabinet Division, is responsible for housing gifts bestowed upon rulers and government officials by foreign dignitaries and heads of other governments. Khan, in possession of some of these gifts, including a precious watch given to him by the Saudi crown prince, proceeded to sell them for personal gain.

Despite being authorized to purchase gifts from the Toshakhana and carry out sales, the 70-year-old leader failed to disclose the money he earned, which led to accusations of concealment. This act is considered a crime under the law, and it involved his failure to inform the Election Commission of Pakistan about the proceeds he made.

Under different circumstances, Khan might have received a warning or a fine from the court, but his luck had already run out when he clashed with the influential military establishment, resulting in his removal from the government in April of the previous year.

Past PMs Who Served Time in Jail

Khan is not the first Pakistani premier to face imprisonment. The country has a long history of elected leaders enduring similar treatment.

Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy

At the top of the list is Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy, a Bengali politician from the then East Pakistan, who held the position of the fifth prime minister. In January 1962, he was arrested and imprisoned on bogus charges of “anti-state activities.” However, his true offense was his refusal to support military ruler General Ayub Khan.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the ninth prime minister of Pakisan, faced arrest on charges of conspiracy to murder a political opponent in 1974. As a consequence, he was sentenced to death and subsequently hanged on April 4, 1979.

Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto served as the country’s premier twice, first from 1988 to 1990 and then from 1993 to 1996. As the only woman prime minister in Pakistan’s history, she faced multiple arrests, starting in 1985 when she was put under house arrest for 90 days.

In August 1986, Bhutto was arrested after denouncing the military dictator Ziaul Haq at a rally in Karachi. In April 1999, she was sentenced to five years imprisonment for corruption and was disqualified and fined over 5 million pounds. However, she managed to avoid arrest by being in self-exile.

Nawaz Sharif

After General Pervez Musharraf took over, Nawaz Sharif was arrested in 1999 and subsequently exiled for 10 years.

In July 2018, he received a 10-year jail sentence, along with his daughter Maryam Nawaz, in a corruption case. Later that year, in December, he was handed a seven-year prison term in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption case. In 2019, Sharif went to London for medical treatment and did not return.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi

In July 2019, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was arrested in connection with a corruption case related to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). However, he was later granted bail and released from custody.

Imran Khan

On May 9, 2023, Imran Khan was arrested in yet another corruption case, but after a few days, he was released following the intervention of the Supreme Court. On August 5, 2023, he received a three-year jail sentence in the Toshakhana case.

In response to his conviction and arrest, renowned journalist and Geo News anchorman, Hamid Mir, commented that Imran Khan was not the first prime minister to be sent to jail and might not be the last.

“First Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy, then Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, then Benazir Bhutto, then Nawaz Sharif and now Imran Khan. Prime Ministers and politicians are always punished,” he tweeted.

He also said that no prime minister in the history of Pakistan has yet served their full five-year term.

Military Dictators

In stark contrast, none of the four military dictators – Auyb Khan, Yahya Khan, Ziaul Haq, and Pervez Musharraf – have faced justice for their role in toppling elected governments and subverting the Constitution.

The powerful Pakistan Army, which has ruled the coup-prone country for more than half of its 75 years of existence, holds significant sway over security, foreign policy, and political matters.

(With inputs from PTI)

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