Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan barred from politics for 5 years

Election watchdog order says Khan disqualified in line with his conviction for misdeclaration of assets.

Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan, center, is escorted by security officials as he arrive to appear in a court, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Friday, May 12, 2023. A high court in Islamabad has granted Khan a two-week reprieve from arrest in a graft case and granted him bail on the charge. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)
Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan [File: Anjum Naveed/AP Photo]

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has been barred from politics for five years.

Khan, who was sentenced in a corruption case over the weekend, was disqualified in line with his conviction, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said in an order on Tuesday.

“Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi is disqualified for a period of five years,” it said. Khan’s constituency would now stand vacant, it said.

Under Pakistani law, a convicted person cannot run for any public office for a period defined by the ECP.

“We knew this was inevitable,” Khan’s aide Zulfikar Bukhari told the Reuters news agency, saying the party will challenge the disqualification in high court. “We’re highly confident it will be reversed,” he said.

Khan, who has denied any wrongdoing, was sentenced to three years imprisonment on Saturday for misdeclaration of assets he received from foreign countries during the time he was prime minister from 2018 to 2022. He was arrested at his Lahore house and taken to a prison near Islamabad.

Khan’s legal team has filed an appeal seeking to set aside the guilty verdict, which the Islamabad High Court will take up on Wednesday, his lawyer Naeem Panjutha said.

The petition seen by Reuters described the conviction as “without lawful authority, tainted with bias”, and said Khan, 70, had not received an adequate hearing.

It said the court had rejected a list of witnesses for the defence a day before reaching its verdict, calling this a “gross travesty of justice, and a slap in the face of due process and fair trial”.

The court had expedited the trial after Khan refused to attend hearings despite repeated summonses and arrest warrants. Unless overturned, the conviction will rule him out of contesting upcoming elections.

The reaction to Khan’s jailing so far has been vastly different to the outpouring of rage that followed his first arrest, even on social media, with half as many Facebook posts mentioning Khan’s name.

“The muted response to his arrest is because of the full-throttle crackdown on PTI workers after the first arrest,” columnist Usama Khilji told the AFP news agency.

“The arrests of PTI workers post the May arrest of Imran Khan, coupled with draconian laws passed in haste by [the coalition government], have had a chilling effect on Pakistani citizens.”

Source: News Agencies