Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan sentenced to 10 years in jail

Previously serving as prime minister from 2018 to 2022, Khan faced a no-confidence vote that led to his ousting after losing the support of the military establishment, which has historically wielded significant influence in Pakistani politics.

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, marking a significant development just weeks before the country’s upcoming elections, in which his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has faced obstacles in contesting.

Khan’s sentencing was pronounced within the confines of Adiala jail, where he has been detained since his arrest in August, struggling with a series of legal battles that he alleges have been orchestrated to thwart his political ambitions. The verdict also saw Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the vice-president of PTI and former foreign minister under Khan’s administration, receive an identical sentence of 10 years, as confirmed by a spokesperson for the party and reported by state media.

The charges against both individuals stem from accusations of leaking classified state documents, marking a significant blow to Khan’s political career. Previously serving as prime minister from 2018 to 2022, Khan faced a no-confidence vote that led to his ousting after losing the support of the military establishment, which has historically wielded significant influence in Pakistani politics.

During his tenure as opposition leader, Khan waged a fierce campaign against the military leadership, alleging their involvement in his removal from power and even accusing them of plotting an assassination attempt against him, which resulted in injuries.

Khan’s arrest in May last year triggered widespread unrest, justifying a government crackdown on PTI, resulting in the defection or underground activities of many senior party leaders.

The verdict against Khan has been met with condemnation from various quarters, with human rights activists and political analysts denouncing it as a “murder of justice.” Despite this setback, Khan’s supporters anticipate a surge in sympathy and popularity for him in response to what they perceive as blatant injustice.

In the lead-up to the elections, PTI has faced significant hurdles, including the stripping of its election symbol and the mandate for candidates to run as individuals rather than under the party banner. This, coupled with the return of Nawaz Sharif, a prominent figure in Pakistani politics, from exile, whose convictions have been overturned, underscores the complex and dynamic nature of the country’s political landscape.

Analysts interpret these developments as indicative of Sharif’s favoured status among the military establishment, which has historically played a pivotal role in shaping Pakistan’s political trajectory.

According to Pakistan’s constitution, elections must be held within 90 days of parliament dissolution, which occurred five months ago. However, the electoral commission has cited delays in redrawing constituency boundaries following a recent census as the reason for the postponement.