Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for leaking state secrets.
Khan’s former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was also given a 10-year jail sentence as part of the case.
It was alleged Khan shared the contents of a secret cable sent by the country’s ambassador in Washington to the ministry of foreign affairs in Islamabad by waving it at a rally.
Khan claimed the cable was proof of a conspiracy by the Pakistani military and US government to topple his government
in 2022, after he visited Moscow just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
He also previously said the contents of the cable appeared in the media from other sources.
Washington and the Pakistan military have denied Khan’s claims.
Khan’s party said they would challenge the decision, by a special court judge at the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, and called it a “sham case”.
“We don’t accept this illegal decision,” Khan’s lawyer Naeem Panjutha posted on social media platform X, following the sentencing.
It comes as the country prepares to hold elections on 8 February – a vote Khan is barred from running in due to a previous conviction.
Khan, a former-cricketer-turned-politician, was ousted as prime minister through a no-confidence vote in April 2022.
Imran Khan’s team were hoping he would make it out of prison sometime soon. That looks very unlikely now.
It is another massive blow for the former cricketer who was already serving a three-year sentence in a corruption case.
And there’s a string of other cases awaiting him – 150 in fact, ranging from contempt of court to terrorism and inciting violence.
This 10-year sentence comes just 10 days before parliamentary elections he has been barred from standing in.
Pakistan’s independent human rights commission says there is “little chance” they will be “free and fair” because of “pre-poll rigging”. They’ve also expressed concern Khan and other members of his PTI party have been stopped from standing.
He remains a potent political force in Pakistan, with a strong grassroot-following attracted to his anti-establishment rhetoric.
With the PTI leadership weakened though, the contest is now focused on Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who recently returned from exile and was himself sentenced to 10 years in a corruption case.
Many believe a coalition government might be the most likely scenario.
The 71-year-old, the founder of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, was then jailed in August 2023 on corruption charges – which he claimed were politically motivated.
The conviction ruled him out of the country’s general elections next week.
While his jail term was suspended as he challenged the corruption conviction, he has remained in prison awaiting a trial on the state secrets case.
Pakistan has seen violent demonstrations since Khan’s arrest last year.
Authorities have cracked down on his supporters and party since then.
Written by: Newsroom