• Monday, May 20, 2024


Relief for Imran Khan as court suspends graft sentence

FILE PHOTO: Imran Khan pauses as he speaks with Reuters during an interview, in Lahore, Pakistan March 17, 2023. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

By: Pramod Thomas

JAILED former prime minister Imran Khan and his wife had their 14-year prison sentences for graft suspended by a Pakistan high court on Monday (1), his party said.

Khan has been tangled in more than 200 legal cases since he was ousted in April 2022, in what he said was a campaign to keep him from power.

Khan, 71, remains jailed on two other cases including treason and illegal marriage with sentences stretching up to a decade.

A spokesman for his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party said the Islamabad High Court dropped the pair’s sentences from an anti-corruption court over selling state gifts, with an appeal against their convictions pending.

The trial court gave “limited counsel access but also had reached the decision in haste without allowing defence to conclude arguments”, spokesman Ahmed Janjua said.

Khan was already jailed and barred from standing for office when he was hit by a trio of sentences in the days before Pakistan’s February 8 general elections.

His wife Bushra Bibi was also sentenced over graft and a marriage the courts said came too quickly after her divorce, in breach of Islamic law.

Analysts said it was a bid to seal the sidelining of the former prime minister and his PTI party from the poll, which was marred by widespread allegations of rigging both before and after the vote.

Despite a crackdown of arrests and censorship, candidates loyal to Khan won more seats than any other party but fell far short of the majority needed to govern.

A coalition of parties with close ties to Pakistan’s powerful military establishment has taken power, headed by prime minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Khan was boosted to power with the support of the top brass in 2018 but was forced from office by a no-confidence vote four years later after a dramatic falling out.

As an opposition leader he waged a campaign of defiance against the military, making incendiary claims they conspired with the US to oust him and plotted an assassination bid which wounded him.

Analysts say the military — which has ruled Pakistan directly for decades of its history and continues to wield immense power behind the scenes — attempted to shut him out of civilian politics in retaliation.

Last week, six top judges from the Islamabad High Court accused spy agencies — the most powerful of which is run by the military — of coercing them over cases including one relating to Khan.

The government has pledged to investigate complaints by the magistrates, who have alleged they were intimidated and surveilled by intelligence officers.


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