Pakistan Sentences Former Prime Minister Imran Khan for Graft
Pakistani police arrested the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, in the eastern city of Lahore on Saturday after a court in Islamabad sentenced him to three years in prison for illegally selling state gifts.
The ruling will likely put an end to his chances of running at the upcoming elections.
The 70-year-old former popular cricket star turned politician with a playboy past in London, was accused of misusing his powers from 2018 to 2022 as the premier by selling state gifts worth more than 140 million Pakistani rupees (cca US$500,000).
The conviction prevents Khan from participating in politics for five years, thereby posing a threat to his political career. Despite the allegations, Khan has consistently denied any wrongdoing and emphasized that the case against him is politically motivated.
Saturday's verdict marks a pivotal development in a political standoff between Khan and Pakistan's powerful military, which has gripped the South Asian nation for over a year since Khan was removed from office in April of the previous year through a vote of no confidence.
"Khan's dishonesty has been established beyond doubt," wrote Judge Humayun Dilawar in the verdict. "He has been found guilty of corrupt practices by intentionally and willfully concealing the benefits he received from the national exchequer." The judge also imposed a fine of Rs 100,000 ($220).
Khan, who is currently facing multiple court cases, was briefly detained earlier this year in a separate case. His arrest in May triggered violent protests across the country, leading to attacks on military installations. After the Supreme Court's intervention, Khan was released.
Khan is reportedly held in a small, unsanitary prison cell. His lawyer, Naeem Haider Panjotha, who met Khan on Monday to prepare an appeal against the sentence, described the conditions.
Imran Khan joins a list of former Pakistani leaders who have ended up facing court trials and incarceration in recent decades. Notable figures like Nawaz Sharif, Benazir Bhutto, Asif Ali Zardari, and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi have also spent time in jails.
Babar Awan, a member of Khan's party and a part of Khan's legal team, criticized the ruling, stating that it was a "ridiculous verdict by a sham court." Awan pointed out that Khan was not granted a fair trial, which is every citizen's right according to the country's constitution.
Khan rose to power in 2018 with the support of popular sentiment and anti-corruption rhetoric, alongside backing from the country's influential military.