Imran Khan, Pakistan’s former Prime Minister sentenced to three years imprisonment
The former Prime Minister of Pakistan, who was ousted in April 2022, after a vote of no confidence removed him from office, has been sentenced to three years imprisonment by Judge Humayun Dilawar, for illegally selling state gifts worth £500,000. Police surrounded his home in the eastern city of Lahore, on Saturday following the announcement of the verdict and he was subsequently arrested and taken to the capital, Islamabad for processing. Khan’s lawyer, Intezar Panjotha, issued a statement saying that he intended to lodge an appeal against the sentence in the high court.
Imran Khan posts video announcement in anticipation of his arrest, calling on his supporters to not sit quietly at home
In a pre-recorded video, which was posted on social media, an apparently relaxed Imran Khan, in anticipation of the judgement and clearly not deterred by possible accusations of incitement to violence or protest, announced:
‘People of Pakistan, when this video reaches you, they will have arrested me and I'll be in jail. I have one request of you - an appeal, that you should not sit in your homes quietly. Whatever I am doing is not for myself. I'm doing it for my country, Pakistan and for you and for your children’s better future. If you do not stand up for your rights, you will live like slaves. Slaves have no lives of their own. Slaves are like ants on the ground. Pakistan was a big dream. Our motto was, 'there is none worthy of worship but God'. That we do not bend down in front of any human. This is a war for justice – for your rights and freedom. Remember, freedom is never served on a plate. Shackles never fall off. They have to be broken. You have to put all your efforts until you get your rights and that is your first fundamental right. By voting, you create your own government. Not like those who have captured the power by force.’
Verdict may disqualify Imran Khan from participating in national elections
Imran Khan’s statement was clearly a reference to the fact that his conviction may disqualify him according to legal constitutional experts and political pundits, from participating in the national elections scheduled for November this year. The Pakistan Minister for Information, Maryam Aurangzeb, refuted any suggestion that the sentencing was linked to attempts to stop Khan from participating in the elections. She said that the former Prime Minister had been:
‘proven guilty of illegal practices, corruption, concealing assets and wrongly declaring wealth in tax returns’
The minister further added that Imran Khan had deployed his time trying to derail the legal process rather than building up a case of defence. She said:
Imran Khan used the time to delay the court proceedings and went back and forth to the high court and supreme court to halt this case’
Protesters chant slogans decrying the verdict, but no major unrest
There is much speculation as to whether Imran Khan’s lawyers can overturn the judgement in the high court and whilst last May after his earlier arrest, he was able to secure his release by a petition in the Supreme Court, there will be doubts whether he has any prospect of achieving the same result on this occasion. His case will be hampered by the over 150 other legal cases which have been filed against him based on charges of corruption, terrorism and inciting violent protest against government and military buildings. Although thousands of Khan supporters have subsequently marched in Muzaffarabad, shouting slogans decrying the verdict, early signs indicate that there has been little or no violent unrest since Khan’s arrest. Nevertheless, there is likely to be much apprehension as to the medium and long term reaction of his supporters to Khan’s last call for them to ‘not’ sit in their homes quietly. His detractors will no doubt argue that this is yet another incitement to violent protest.