Ex-Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan Receives 10-Year Prison Sentence for Confidentiality Breach, Confirms Party

On Tuesday, Imran Khan received a 10-year jail sentence from a Pakistan court for the disclosure of state secrets, according to his party. This marks the most severe punishment for the former prime minister and cricket icon, with multiple cases concluding shortly before national elections.

The special court declared Khan guilty of publicly revealing the contents of a confidential cable sent by Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington to the government in Islamabad, as stated by his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. In the same case, former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also received a 10-year sentence.

This recent conviction, the second for Khan in recent months, ensures that the prominent politician will stay out of the public eye leading up to the parliamentary vote next week, which will determine the new prime minister.

The court was scheduled to release its written verdict at a later time. The PTI announced its intention to contest the ruling, with Khan’s lawyer, Naeem Panjutha, expressing disagreement on the social media platform X, stating, “We reject this unlawful decision.”

Legal Team Was Not Given a Full and Fair Trial, Confirms Khan’s Camp

According to Khan’s associate Zulfikar Bukhari, the legal team was not afforded an opportunity to present their case or question witnesses, emphasizing that the proceedings took place within the confines of the jail. Ali Zafar, another lawyer representing Khan, conveyed to ARY television that considering the trial and sentencing conditions, the likelihood of the case being nullified on appeal stood at “100%.”

Bukhari characterized the conviction as an effort to diminish support for Khan, stating to Reuters, “People will now ensure they participate in larger numbers when voting.” Khan had previously received a three-year sentence in a corruption case, rendering him ineligible for the upcoming election.

Although his legal team aimed to secure his release from jail, where he has been since August of the previous year, the recent conviction makes that prospect unlikely, even as the charges are contested in a higher court.

The political party led by Nawaz Sharif, Khan’s primary political rival and a three-time prime minister, expressed dissatisfaction with the verdict, deeming it insufficiently severe. Ahsan Iqbal, a senior aide to Sharif, commented in a TV interview, “I think, considering his negligence and the crime related to crucial national interests, this is a very lenient sentence.”

Khan Engages in Legal Battles on Multiple Fronts Since Ouster in 2022 No-Confidence Vote

Experts anticipate that Sharif’s party is in the lead to establish the upcoming government after the elections.

The timing of the sentencing just ahead of the polls is likely to “prompt concerns about the credibility of the elections,” according to Mazhar Abbas, an analyst based in Karachi.

The nation’s rebound from the economic crisis hinges on political stability. The election coincides with Pakistan maneuvering through a challenging recovery process under a $3 billion International Monetary Fund bailout, which played a crucial role in preventing a sovereign default for the country last year.

Imran Khan has been entangled in numerous legal battles since his removal from power through a parliamentary vote of no confidence in 2022. Both Washington and the Pakistan military deny these allegations.

The former prime minister has previously asserted that the contents of the cable were already in the media from other sources. His party, PTI, which won the 2018 elections, faced a setback as a court upheld the Election Commission’s decision to strip the party of its traditional election symbol, the cricket bat. Now, his candidates are running as independents, many facing a perceived crackdown allegedly supported by the military, which the military denies.

Amidst the legal challenges, Khan’s media team shared a message from the incarcerated leader on X just before the verdict. In the post, Khan expressed concern that a harsh sentence in the case could be a ploy to incite protests and manipulate public perception through alleged false flag operations.

In May of the previous year, during Khan’s initial arrest, his supporters were accused of rioting and vandalizing military installations, including the residence of a high-ranking general. Khan denies any involvement of his supporters in the alleged misconduct.

Calling on his supporters, Khan urged them to turn out in large numbers to vote for candidates endorsed by him, framing it as a peaceful response to perceived injustices. The post emphasized that the upcoming vote on February 8 is a crucial test and an opportunity to seek retribution through the democratic process.

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