Former Pakistan PM Khan Handed 2nd Jail Term In 2 Days As Election Looms | CBC News


Former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan and his wife were sentenced on Wednesday to 14 years in prison for corruption, his lawyer and prison officials said, a day after another special court convicted Khan of leaking state secrets and gave him a 10-year prison sentence.

Imran Khan, his wife sentenced to 14 years for corruption, with Khan banned from office for 10 yearsThe Associated Press

· Posted: Jan 31, 2024 3:51 AM EST | Last Updated: January 31

Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan, right, along with his wife, Bushra Bibi, sign surety bonds for bail in Lahore in July 2023. Khan and his wife were sentenced Wednesday to 14 years in jail after being found guilty of graft in a case involving gifts he received while in office. (Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)Former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan was found guilty of corruption on Wednesday and sentenced to 14 years, yet another blow to the imprisoned populist leader, days before his political movement attempts a return to power in parliamentary elections that are just days away.

It was Khan’s second conviction in as many days and the harshest yet, and was the latest episode in the long-running battle between the powerful military and civilian leaders in the troubled Western ally. It comes a day after another special court convicted Khan of leaking state secrets and gave him a 10-year prison sentence.

Khan and his wife, Bushra Bibi, were accused of retaining and selling state gifts in violation of government rules when he was in power, including jewelry and watches from Saudi Arabia’s government. In addition to his prison term, Khan was disqualified from holding any public office for 10 years.

The prosecution, which handed down an indictment just three weeks ago, said Khan did not correctly disclose his income after selling the gifts. In addition to the prison terms, the couple was fined 787 million rupees ($3.7 million Cdn) each.

His lawyer, Babar Awan, dismissed the conviction as a violation of Khan’s basics rights said the former prime minister was convicted and sentenced in such a hurry that the judge did not wait for the arrival of his legal team.

Bibi was absent when the judge announced the verdict but later went to the court to avoid being arrested. She will be handed over to prison officials to serve her sentence.

Khan briefly attended Wednesday’s hearing but left the courtroom when the judge was about to read the verdict. He said he could not remain there without his lawyer and asked the judge to wait. His request was denied.

Party hobbled before Feb. 8 voteKhan was ousted from power in a no-confidence vote in April 2022 and now has more than 150 legal cases hanging over him. 

Still, the former cricket star remains intensely popular. Pakistan saw violent demonstrations — including ones that targeted military installations — after Khan’s arrest last year.

Police officers detains a supporter of PKhan from outside the Sindh High Court in Karachi on Tuesday. (Fareed Khan/The Associated Press)Authorities have since cracked down on his supporters and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, or PTI, making further rallies unlikely, and many of his party’s candidates have been disqualified from contesting the Feb. 8 parliamentary elections.

Pakistan has a history of arresting former prime ministers or sidelining them ahead of elections if they are deemed to pose a challenge to the security establishment, which has long held significant sway in civilian politics. More than two-thirds of its civilian rulers have been arrested, convicted or disqualified since the country gained independence from Britain in 1947.

With Khan fighting legal battles, his rival, three-time premier Nawaz Sharif, has a clear path to a fourth term in office. Sharif himself was hobbled by legal cases and prison sentences, but the Supreme Court and other courts have acquitted him on all charges and scrapped a lifetime ban on politicians with criminal convictions from contesting elections.

Sharif’s party succeeded Khan’s after his ouster and currently a caretaker government headed by Prime Minister Anwaarul-Haq-Kakar is running day-to-day affairs.

Though Kakar has said he would ensure free and fair elections in a peaceful environment, there have been isolated attacks at election rallies. A candidate from Khan’s party, Rehan Zeb, was shot and killed Wednesday in northwestern Pakistan’s Bajur district. On Tuesday, four people died when a roadside bomb went off near rally participants from Khan’s party in the southwestern Baluchistan province.

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