Supporters claim that just days before parliamentary elections, a Pakistani court, in a series of legal proceedings, found former Prime Minister Imran Khan guilty of revealing state secrets and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
Imran Khan Convicted: 10-Year Sentence Days Before Elections
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Imran Khan has been declared guilty just days before elections, as he continues to serve a three-year jail term, with over 150 other pending cases against him. Removed from office in 2022 through a vote of no confidence, the former cricket star maintains a formidable political presence, marked by anti-establishment rhetoric and widespread protests.
However, following Khan’s imprisonment last year, Pakistan witnessed violent anti-government demonstrations. Since then, the government has clamped down on supporters of the Islamic leader and his party, hesitant to allow further unrest.
Khan’s Political Prospects at Risk: Distrust in State Secrets
As Pakistan faces delicate elections on February 8 amid economic turmoil, Imran Khan’s successor, Shahbaz Sharif, is gaining ground. Sharif, who secured the IMF bailout and agreed to significant increases in gas and electricity rates, faces criticism for rising costs, leading to a split with the public and his party.
In the “Zero Case,” Khan was found guilty on Tuesday, accused of revealing state secrets by showing private documents during a rally. Although these documents haven’t been made public, it is believed to involve political correspondence between Islamabad and Pakistani diplomats in Washington.
Former Prime Minister Imran Khan Found Guilty in “Zero Case”
Khan vehemently claims to be threatened, alleging a conspiracy by the Pakistani government and military, in collusion with the United States, to oust him. Both Pakistani and American officials deny these allegations.
The verdict, delivered by a special court in Rawalpindi where Khan is held, was criticized for restricting access to his lawyers during proceedings and forbidding coverage by journalists.
Post-Khan Imprisonment: Violent Protests Erupt; Action Against Supporters Ongoing
A high-ranking party official, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, was also convicted and sentenced to ten years, accused of manipulating political cable material for political gain. Khan’s sister, Aleema Khan, criticized the trial, claiming her brother was denied a fair hearing, and urged his supporters to vote for PTI candidates in large numbers on February 8.
Despite the controversy, Khan continues to maintain his innocence, stating he did not provide accurate material evidence. His party’s legal team plans to appeal the conviction in the Islamabad High Court on Wednesday.
Pakistan’s Election Affected by Economic Crisis: Debate over Sharif’s IMF Bailout
Khan argues for his innocence, asserting that he did not provide precise material evidence. According to his party’s denial, his legal team plans to appeal the guilty verdict in the Islamabad High Court on Wednesday.
Khan faces additional charges of inciting violence, terrorism, and contempt of court. Despite criticism of the administration, some anticipate lower voter turnout in the next elections due to Khan being the sole charismatic figure capable of rallying large crowds. Political analyst Ajim Chaudhary labeled PTI a “leaderless party” and urged supporters to stay non-violent and disciplined.
Khan’s Defense: Controversial Conspiracy and Accusations of Threats
With several candidates from Khan’s party losing, Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission doubts the likelihood of a free and fair parliamentary election. PTI, in a statement, announced support for Khan and Qureshi, portraying their actions as standing up for genuine freedom.
The party termed the legal proceedings as a “mockery of justice” and claimed that the court denied Khan and Qureshi an opportunity to present their case. Despite urging supporters to refrain from violence, the party stressed the need for restraint and discipline among their followers.