Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan calls for protests after court hands him three-year prison sentence


Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan calls for protests after court hands him three-year prison sentence

Imran Khan, Pakistan’s former prime minister, has called for protests after he was sentenced to three years in prison for illegally selling state gifts.

Police were seen surrounding his home in the eastern city of Lahore on Saturday after the verdict was handed down.

The 70-year-old former cricketer has been arrested after he was sentenced for unlawfully selling state gifts while he was prime minister between 2018 and 2022 following an inquiry conducted by the election commission.

In a video message he urged people to peacefully protest until they get their rights, namely a government of their choice through voting and “not the one like today’s occupying power.”

He was accused of misusing his position to buy and sell gifts received during visits abroad worth more than 140 million Pakistani rupees ($635,000).

Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan calls for protests after court hands him three-year prison sentence

“Police have arrested Imran Khan from his residence,” Mr Khan’s lawyer Intezar Panjotha said. “We are filing a
petition against the decision in (the) high court.”

Lahore’s Police Chief Bilal Siddique Kamiana confirmed the arrest and said Mr Khan was being transferred to the capital, Islamabad.

Imran Khan: Widespread protests possible as former PM’s arrest adds tension to Pakistan’s febrile political climate

Mr Khan said his arrest was “expected” in a pre-recorded video statement posted on Twitter.

Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan calls for protests after court hands him three-year prison sentence

“People of Pakistan, when this video reaches you, they will have arrested me and I’ll be in jail,” he said.

“I have one request and an appeal, that you should not sit quietly at home.

“This sacrifice I’m doing is not for myself, I’m doing it for my country and for you and for your kids’ futures. If you’re not going to stand up for your country, you will be servants, and there no such a life for servants.”

Possibility of more widespread protest

Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan calls for protests after court hands him three-year prison sentence

Cordelia Lynch

Asia correspondent


Imran Khan has always said the mounting cases against him are politically motivated and intended to stop him from running for election. This recent arrest could do exactly that.

It adds more jeopardy and tension to an already febrile political climate in Pakistan. And the timing is significant. This week Shehbaz Sharif’s government announced a caretaker government will take over on 9 August, triggering the three-month march towards an election expected in November.

The last time Mr Khan was arrested back in May, it sparked widespread protest and clashes between his supporters and the police. Military installations were attacked, a rare moment in the nation that illustrated the depth of anger. Since then, many of Mr Khan’s PTI members have been arrested or left the party.

With the former cricket star facing more than 150 charges, there has been a sense of inevitability that he would be arrested again and strong whispers in recent days that it was imminent.

There is a chance that once again the supreme court intervenes and Mr Khan’s legal team wins its appeal against the three-year sentence.

His lawyers say it is unconstitutional. Mr Khan wasn’t in court this time to hear of his fate. This time, police moved in to arrest him at his house in Lahore.

There is the possibility once again of widespread protest. He is no doubt a popular figure and he insists he would win an election.

The question is whether he continues to inspire enough support for people to risk taking to the streets in large numbers, knowing the risk that comes with it.

Mr Khan has denied any wrongdoing and his political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said in a statement another appeal has already been filed to the country’s supreme court.

Legal experts say the conviction could end his chances of taking part in the national elections that have to be held before November.

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Pakistan’s information minister Maryam Aurangzeb denied Khan’s arrest was linked to the upcoming elections and said he had been “proven guilty of illegal practices, corruption, concealing assets and wrongly declaring wealth in tax returns.”

She insisted the conviction followed a full investigation and proper legal proceedings, during which he had every opportunity to defend himself.

“Instead 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,” she said.

Since he was ousted from power in a no-confidence vote in April last year, Mr Khan has been hit with more than 150 legal cases, including allegations of corruption, terrorism, and inciting violence over deadly protests that saw his followers attack government and military property across the country in May.

The action was sparked by the popular opposition leader’s arrest on 9 May on corruption charges.

He was released three days later following a ruling by the country’s Supreme Court.

Days after he was granted bail, Mr Khan told Sky News that Pakistan’s government is “petrified of elections” and fears being “wiped out” by his party at the polls.

A group of pro-Khan lawyers gathered at his home chanting slogans and protesting his conviction and arrest on Saturday, although there were no immediate signs of the unrest seen in May.

Faheem Malik, the UK information secretary of the PTI party, described Mr Khan’s latest arrest as “very shocking”.

“The whole country really is in chaos,” he told Sky News.

“My biggest worry is the whole of Pakistan is really, really upset.”

Mr Malik described the court’s decision as “embarrassing” and said the government wants to shut him down due to his “popularity” and because he would win a “landslide victory” in the upcoming elections.

“They don’t want Imran Khan to join the election,” he added.


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