Pakistan High Court Temporarily Halts Imran Khan's Corruption Conviction
On Tuesday, a Pakistan High Court temporarily halts Imran Khan's corruption conviction. However, the former Prime Minister's incarceration will continue due to an existing detention order issued by a judge in a separate case.
Imran Khan, a 70-year-old ex-cricket player and former Prime Minister, has been a focal point of a political upheaval following his removal through a parliamentary vote of confidence in April 2022. The already dire economic situation in Pakistan has further worsened the turmoil, marking one of the most challenging economic periods the country has faced in decades.
On August 5, Khan was incarcerated following a verdict that handed him a three-year prison term for the unauthorized sale of state presents during his term as the Prime Minister from 2018 to 2022.
This conviction has additionally rendered him ineligible to participate in elections for a span of five years. However, on Tuesday, a court directive announced the suspension of this sentence.
"We feel that the applicant is entitled to the suspension of sentence and be released on bail," it said.
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Naeem Panjutha, Khan's attorney, also shared the news of the suspension on social media, expressing gratitude with the words, "God be praised."
Although the court has issued an order for his release on bail, Imran Khan's imprisonment will persist due to a separate case in which he was detained for the unauthorized disclosure of state secrets. A judge has instructed relevant authorities to present Khan before the court on Wednesday.
Furthermore, the suspension of the corruption-related sentence will not overturn the prohibition on Khan's participation in elections, as long as the conviction remains intact. With national elections scheduled for later this year and a temporary government established this month, the voting process is anticipated to face several months of delay.
In Khan's appeal petition, he had requested an immediate halt to the sentence enforcement until a final verdict was reached regarding his conviction. The basis for this appeal was that he had been found guilty without being afforded the opportunity to present a defense during a summary trial.
Contrarily, the prosecution and Khan's political adversaries contend that the court expedited the trial process only after he disregarded numerous summons and arrest warrants over the course of several months.
Regarding the matter of disclosing state secrets, a case documented by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) outlined that the former Prime Minister had been formally charged. The charges revolved around his act of publicly revealing the contents of a confidential communication dispatched by Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, and further exploiting it for his own political advantage.
In connection to this case, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Khan's principal aide and former Foreign Minister, has already been apprehended and subjected to questioning. Khan alleges that the contents of the cable substantiate his claim that his removal from office was orchestrated by the United States.
He asserts that the U.S. exerted pressure on Pakistan's military to overthrow his government due to his visit to Russia shortly before the country's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. However, both Washington and the Pakistani military have refuted these allegations.
The deterioration of Khan's relationship with the influential military, which traditionally holds the power to determine the country's leadership, played a pivotal role in his downfall. As for the potential reversal of Khan's corruption conviction, a comprehensive court hearing is still pending, as explained by Abdul Moiz Jaferii, a legal representative.
Khan being left at liberty is now hindered by him being required by the police and relevant investigation agencies in the multitude of other cases instituted against him.- Abdul Moiz Jaferii
Khan is confronted with numerous cases, encompassing allegations such as corruption, complicity in murder, treason, and the organization of tumultuous protests that ensued after his initial apprehension in May. He staunchly refutes all these accusations, asserting that they are politically driven charges. His political party has vehemently demanded his swift liberation.
Arresting him in any other case will cause further damage to our national integrity and repute of judicial system. Let the innocent be free!- Khan aide Zulfikar Bukhari