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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 1°C
KM Chaudary/AP Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan jailed for three years after graft conviction

In May, Khan was arrested and briefly detained for the same case, which sparked deadly protests.

FORMER PAKISTAN PRIME minister Imran Khan was sent to jail for three years today after a court in the capital found him guilty of graft, a move likely to bar him from standing in elections due later this year.

Some small, scattered protests by his supporters broke out across the country after police arrested the former international cricket star at his home in the eastern city of Lahore.

Anyone convicted of a criminal offence is disqualified from contesting elections in Pakistan, and parliament is likely to be dissolved in the next two weeks before it completes its term, with a national vote to be held by mid-November or earlier.

“His dishonesty has been established beyond doubt,” judge Humayun Dilawar wrote in a ruling seen by AFP for a case centred on gifts he received and did not properly declare while he was premier.

“He has been found guilty of corrupt practices by hiding the benefits he accrued from national exchequer willfully and intentionally.”

In May, Khan was arrested and briefly detained in Islamabad for the same case, sparking deadly unrest during which supporters of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party poured onto the streets and clashed with police.

In the aftermath of his release following three days in custody, PTI has been targeted by a crackdown with thousands of arrests, reports of intimidation and muzzling of the press.

Images of Khan – or even mention of him by name – are prohibited from being broadcast on TV channels, but he remains wildly popular and last month a debut video to his personal TikTok account racked up more than 135 million views and 4.5 million likes within 36 hours.

After he was taken away by police today, a video statement Khan made before his arrest was posted to his Twitter account with him calling for his supporters to protest.

embedded04fd6c969eff4823bca5fc7e8f1feafc Lawyers and supporters of Imran Khan chant slogans against the court decision at his residence in Lahore

“My fellow Pakistanis, they will have arrested me and I’ll be in jail by the time this message reaches you. I have just one request and appeal, that you are not to sit silently at home,” he said.

“This is a war for justice, for your rights, for your freedom… chains don’t just fall off, they have to be broken. You must continue peaceful protest until you get your rights.”

Khan not in court

Khan, 70, has faced a slew of court cases on charges he says are politically motivated since being ousted in a vote of no confidence last year, and was not present when he was sentenced today.

The judge also fined him 100,000 rupees (around €320).

Soon after the ruling, police entered his home in Lahore and took him away.

“A thief has been arrested today,” government spokeswoman Marriyum Aurangzeb told reporters.

“Any negotiations with the thief will be difficult now because he will be in jail.”

State TV said Khan had been taken to jail in Attock, a historical fort city around 60 kilometres west of Islamabad.

PTI lawyers said they were filing multiple appeals to try and overturn Khan’s conviction and secure his release.

“This is a very regrettable decision that was made in haste. Justice was not provided to us and the right of defence was not given,” said Gohar Khan, a member of his legal team.

Khan’s jailing will do little to calm the economic and political unrest that has roiled the nation for the past 18 months.

Parliament is likely to be dissolved in the next two weeks before it completes its term, with national elections to be held by mid-November or earlier.

“Everyone will ask questions about the credibility of elections in the absence of PTI and Imran Khan and questions will be raised about the credibility of elections in the outside world as well,” political analyst Hasan Askari told AFP.

Khan rose 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 backing of the top generals.

In multiple speeches and interviews Khan has highlighted the power the top brass wield behind the scenes – a subject historically considered a red line in Pakistan.

The case that has led to his arrest centres on gifts Khan and his wife received while in office.

Pakistan newspapers have for months carried lurid stories alleging Khan and his wife received lavish presents worth millions during trips abroad – including luxury watches, jewellery, designer handbags and perfumes.

Government officials must declare all gifts, but are allowed to keep those below a certain value or buy them at an officially agreed price.

A spokesman for PTI said the party would now be led by vice chairman and former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

© AFP 2023

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