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Pakistani court seeks 'government response' over Imran Khan's imprisonment, refuses to release him

A top Pakistani court says it wanted to hear from the government before deciding over former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s appeal against his imprisonment on corruption charges and refused to release him

Munir Ahmed
Wednesday 09 August 2023 12:19 BST

A top Pakistani court Wednesday said it wanted to hear from the government before deciding over former Prime Minister Imran Khan's appeal against his imprisonment on corruption charges.

Khan was arrested at his Lahore home on Saturday and given a three-year jail sentence on charges of concealing assets. He is held at the high-security prison Attock in the eastern Punjab province while his legal team seeks his release.

His appeal hearing is underway, but the Islamabad High Court gave Khan no immediate relief and he remains behind bars. The court said it seeks “government response” and would hear from the Election Commission of Pakistan's lawyers before deciding on Khan's appeal.

The commission last year disqualified Khan from holding public office for five years accusing him of unlawfully selling state gifts and concealing assets as premier. Khan was notified of his disqualification again on Tuesday following his sentencing.

The court adjourned without setting a date for the following hearing, dealing a blow to Khan's legal team.

Khan met only once with one of his lawyers, Naeem Haider Panjutha, since his arrest, who was present with him in court on Wednesday. Panjutha asked for the former premier's release, saying that Khan did not violate any laws and his arrest was illegal.

Addressing reporters, Panjutha said, "we were not properly heard today.”

Khan's lawyer had also asked Monday for his transfer to a prison where there are special cells for under-trial and imprisoned politicians. Usually, high-profile personalities are kept at the Adiyala prison in Rawalpindi after their arrest.

Khan — who was ousted in a no-confidence vote in April 2022 but remains a popular figure in the country — has denied the charges.

This comes as Khan’s successor, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, is set to dissolve parliament later Wednesday after the completion of its term.

Though the dissolution could pave the way for parliamentary elections by mid-November, the government could delay the vote by several months if it decides to redraw constituencies based on recent census results.

Under Pakistan’s constitution, after Sharif steps down and the parliament is disbanded, a caretaker government is installed to run day-to-day affairs for 90 days until the next election. So far Sharif has not revealed who will become the caretaker prime minister.

Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League party is expected to face tough competition from Khan’s party — though Khan himself would be unable to take part unless he is granted an appeal is released from prison.

Under Pakistan’s laws, no convicted person is eligible to lead a party, run in elections, or hold public office.

Khan was previously arrested in May on corruption charges, triggering a wave of violent protests across the country. Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered his release days later, saying his arrest was illegal.

Khan, since his ouster, has insisted that his removal from power was a conspiracy by Washington, Sharif and the Pakistani military — accusations that all three have denied.

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