Advertisement

What is Imran Khan’s appeals process following two new major convictions?

Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan will take his long-drawn legal fight to the higher courts, his party says, after he was found guilty in two different cases just a week before the country’s general election.

Mr Khan and his wife, Bushra Bibi, were each awarded jail terms of 14 years on Wednesday for illegally selling gifts worth more than £395,000 from the state treasury, known as the “Toshakhana”, during his premiership. He was also barred from holding public office for 10 years and they were fined approximately £2.2m each.

The former cricket star-turned-politician was also handed another 10-year term on Tuesday after being found guilty of revealing state secrets. He is already serving a three-year sentence for corruption.

It was unclear whether the sentences for the jailed Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) politician would run concurrently.

The PTI on Thursday said Mr Khan's legal team would challenge the verdict in the so-called Cipher case – relating to state secrets – and appeal for suspension of conviction and sentencing at the Islamabad High Court. The team was still awaiting the court order for the Toshakhana case, a spokesperson for Mr Khan told The Independent.

“The verdict was pronounced in haste and they didn't even have the time to write the order," the spokesperson said, suggesting this may have been a tactic to delay the appeals.

The party argued that the trial was a “sham” and the judge did not even allow Mr Khan’s lawyers to defend them.

The legal options available for Mr Khan include challenging the verdicts in a higher court within 30 days. If his appeal is rejected by the high court, his team would then move the supreme court.

“No cross-questioning allowed, no final argument concluded and decision was made in such a hurry ... this ridiculous decision will also be challenged,” the spokesperson added.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Mr Khan asked the court “why are you in a hurry” after the judges directed him to submit his statement without wasting the court’s time.

This week’s sentences came as another blow to Mr Khan ahead of the 8 February parliamentary election, which he has been barred from contesting because of his earlier conviction.

Mr Khan is facing more than 190 legal cases with charges ranging from contempt of court to terrorism since his ouster following a no-confidence vote in April 2022.

He previously said the legal cases against him were a ploy to keep him distracted ahead of the polls amid a severe economic crisis and an inflation rate as high as almost 30 per cent. The country is also navigating a recovery path under a $3bn (£2.37bn) International Monetary Fund bailout.

In the Cipher case, Mr Khan was accused of waving a confidential document at a rally after his ouster. The document, which has not been made public, allegedly mentioned diplomatic correspondence between Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington and the foreign ministry in Islamabad.

Former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, a close aide of Mr Khan, was also sentenced to 10 years in prison in the same case.

Mr Khan and his wife were indicted three weeks ago on charges that they bought gifts – including jewellery and watches from Saudi Arabia’s government – at reduced prices and sold them at market value. They pleaded not guilty.

In Pakistan, politicians in office are allowed to buy the gifts they receive from foreign dignitaries and heads of state, but they aren’t normally allowed to sell them. If they do, they have to declare the earnings. The prosecution claimed Mr Khan did not correctly disclose his income after selling the gifts.

“Complete destruction of every existing law in Pakistan in two days,” the PTI lashed out on X. “Like Cipher, this case has no basis to stand in any higher court. It’s shameful how a complete disregard and mockery of law is in place,” the party said.

Analyst Azim Chaudhry said despite Pakistan’s history of arresting former prime ministers or sidelining them ahead of elections, the rapid succession of Mr Khan’s convictions – three in about six months – was unusual.

“The message is, Imran Khan will remain behind bars for a longer time if he does not change his rhetoric against the country’s institutions,” Mr Chaudhry told the Associated Press.

Mr Khan’s legal team on Tuesday filed an appeal in the Supreme Court to challenge the rejection of his nomination papers in two constituencies. His nomination papers from constituencies in Lahore and Mianwali were rejected following his past conviction.

His conviction in the Toshakhana case, the lawyers said, does not hold on “moral” grounds and should not be a basis for disqualification. “We haven’t received any communication from the court on the appeal yet,” the spokesperson added.