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Jailed Ex-Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s Lawyers File Legal Challenge

Unless overturned, the conviction will rule him out of contesting upcoming elections.


Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks at an event of Karachi Bar Association in Karachi on October 14, 2022. (Photo by Asif HASSAN / AFP)

 

Lawyers for former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan filed an appeal Tuesday against his conviction for graft, as he languished in a small cell in a century-old prison at the start of a three-year jail term.

The former international cricket star was arrested at the weekend and whisked to jail after being found guilty in one of the more than 200 cases he has faced since being ousted from office by a vote of no confidence in April 2022.

Unless overturned, the conviction will rule him out of contesting upcoming elections.

Pakistan’s election commission on Tuesday issued a statement officially disqualifying Khan for five years.

He is being held at a colonial-era prison on the outskirts of historical Attock city, around 60 kilometres (40 miles) west of the capital Islamabad.

“We’ve submitted an appeal… our plea requests a temporary suspension of the trial court’s ruling and seeks bail,” Khan’s lawyer Gohar Khan told AFP.

“The court will take up the case tomorrow and because the sentence is short we hope that Imran Khan will be granted bail in (several) weeks’ time.”

Another of his lawyers warned authorities would try to delay the process.

“Currently there is no rule of law in Pakistan, we are rushing from one court to another,” said Mishal Yousafzai.

On Monday, Khan’s spokesman Raoof Hasan told AFP the ex-leader was being held “in deplorable conditions not fit for any human”.

“But he is in good spirits… he said to ‘tell the people that I will not compromise on my principles’.”

Tough Conditions 

The 70-year-old is in a so-called “C-class cell”, sleeping on a mattress on the floor and with only enough room for a prayer mat.

There is little access to daylight, and a fan but no air conditioner in the summer heat, Hasan said.

Power of attorney allowed Khan’s legal team to file a bail application on his behalf Tuesday, and also appeal for him to be moved to a more comfortable “A-class cell”, usually reserved for VIP inmates.

At a court hearing that Khan did not attend on Saturday, a judge found him guilty of failing to properly declare gifts he received while in office and sentenced him to three years in jail.

While the sentence disqualifies Khan from taking part in upcoming elections, many politicians — including current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his brother, former premier Nawaz Sharif — have recovered from convictions or had them overturned to make a comeback.

Parliament to be Dissolved 

Parliament will be dissolved on Wednesday — days ahead of the end of its natural term — meaning an election must be held by mid-November.

But the release of the latest census data at the weekend also means the election commission must redraw constituency boundaries, which the law minister said late Monday would likely mean a delay.

“God willing the matter will not go beyond 50 to 60 days,” Azam Nazeer Tarar said on TV.

Khan’s arrest and detention for three days in connection with the same case in May sparked deadly violence, with his supporters taking to the streets in the tens of thousands and clashing with police.

It also prompted the crackdown that saw almost all of the top leadership of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party arrested or forced into hiding, leaving it scrambling to set up a replacement decision-making body.

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 AFP.

“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.”

AFP