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3 Jun, 2024 22:14

Pakistan overturns ex-PM’s treason conviction

Imran Khan remains imprisoned on other charges, however
Pakistan overturns ex-PM’s treason conviction

The Islamabad High Court on Monday overturned former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s conviction for leaking state secrets. He remains behind bars, however, for allegedly violating Islamic tradition with his marriage.

Khan, 71, was ousted in April 2022. Since then, he has faced over 100 indictments, which his party has denounced as politically motivated. The state secrets case saw him sentenced to ten years in prison in February, just ahead of the national elections.

“Thank God, the sentence is overturned,” Naeem Panjutha, a spokesman for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, said after the court announced its decision. Former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi (2018-2022) was also acquitted of the charges.

Khan has cited a classified cable as proof that the Pakistani military conspired with the US to overthrow his government after he visited Russia. The US has denied the accusation. The government in Islamabad has claimed that by revealing the contents of the cable, Khan violated the state secrets law.

“It is a fact that a national security document was used for political purposes,” government spokesman for legal issues Aqeel Malik said at a press conference on Monday, noting that PM Shehbaz Sharif’s government might appeal Khan’s acquittal to the Supreme Court.

Two other convictions against Khan, handed out just days before the February 8 vote, have been stayed pending appeal. In one case, he and his wife Bushra were sentenced to 14 years for illegally selling state gifts.

Khan remains in prison because of the seven-year conviction for allegedly violating Islamic tradition by marrying Bushra too soon after her divorce. According to his party, the case has no leg to stand on, as Bushra herself had the sole right to decide on the timing of the marriage.

Multiple convictions have been used to bar Khan and PTI from running for office in the February election. The party’s candidates still got 93 out of the 266 directly elected seats in the legislature, but were kept from power by a coalition of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which won 54 and 73 seats, respectively.

While Monday’s acquittal is a “huge political and legal victory” for Khan, the cricket-star-turned-politician won’t be released any time soon, journalist and political analyst Mazhar Abbas told Reuters.