Pakistan court suspends ex-PM Khan’s graft sentence

A Pakistan high court on Tuesday suspended former prime minister Imran Khan’s prison sentence for a graft conviction, his lawyer said, but it was unclear if he would be immediately released.

A spokesman for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party said the Islamabad High
Court had overturned a lower court’s decision this month to imprison him for
three years, a judgement which barred him from contesting upcoming elections.

His party and lawyers said he was granted bail, but they feared the 70-year-
old would be rearrested over one of the more than 200 cases levelled against
him since he was was ousted by parliamentary vote in April 2022.

“We have filed a separate application requesting the court pass an order
barring the authorities from arresting him in any other case,” Gohar Khan,
one of the lawyers, told AFP.

“If authorities arrest him in any other case, it will be against his legal

Khan has been in prison for three weeks since a judge found him guilty of
failing to properly declare gifts he received while in office.

Anticipating his release, Khan’s legal team said they would head for Attock
Jail, a century-old prison around 60 kilometres (40 miles) west of the
capital, Islamabad.

But political commentator Omar Quraishi told AFP “it remains to be seen if
the former prime minister will be released and if so, when”, because of the
volume of other cases involving Khan.

– Khan behind bars –

The charismatic 70-year-old is Pakistan’s most popular politician and claims
his ousting and subsequent legal cases have been orchestrated by the powerful
military establishment to deny him a second term.

Khan was also briefly jailed on graft charges in May, sparking days of civil
unrest, but since then, his PTI party has been targeted by a major crackdown
which has vastly diminished his street power and seen most of his senior
leadership jump ship or be locked away.

Islamabad said it was targeted by “anti-state” violence during backlash over
that arrest.

But rights groups say authorities used overly broad anti-terror laws to
suppress PTI, and the domestic press reported pressure to censor or smear
Khan on the airwaves.

While Khan was imprisoned this month, Pakistan’s parliament was dissolved at
the request of his successor Shehbaz Sharif to pave the way for a caretaker
government which will usher in elections in the coming months.

No date for the polls has yet been announced.

Khan, a former cricket star, surged to power in 2018 on a wave of popular
support, an anti-corruption manifesto and the backing of the powerful
military establishment.

When he was ousted in April last year, analysts said it was because he lost
the support of those same generals who handed him the keys to office.

He was replaced by a shaky coalition of the dynastic parties which have
historically ruled Pakistan.

But as an opposition politician, he waged an unprecedented campaign against
the influential generals, who have staged at least three successful coups
leading to decades of martial law.

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