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Pak ex-PM Imran arrested

Court convicts him in graft case, bans his politics

Published : 05 Aug 2023 10:22 PM | Updated : 06 Aug 2023 02:23 PM

Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan was arrested at his home in Lahore on Saturday after a court in the capital found him guilty of graft and sentenced him to three years in jail.

The former international cricket star has long warned he would be arrested to prevent him from participating in elections that are due to be held before the end of the year.

"His dishonesty has been established beyond doubt," judge Humayun Dilawar wrote in a ruling seen by AFP for a case centred on gifts he received and did not properly declare while he was premier.

"He has been found guilty of corrupt practices by hiding the benefits he accrued from national exchequer willfully and intentionally."

In May, Khan was arrested and briefly detained in Islamabad for the same case, sparking deadly unrest during which supporters of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party poured onto the streets and clashed with police.

In the aftermath of his release following three days in custody, PTI has been targeted by a crackdown with thousands of arrests, reports of intimidation and muzzling of the press.

After he was taken away by police Saturday, a video made before his arrest was posted to his X account.

"My arrest was expected & I recorded this message before my arrest... I want my party workers to remain peaceful, steadfast and strong," he said in the caption accompanying the video.

- Khan not in court -

Khan has faced a slew of court cases on charges he says are politically motivated since being ousted in a vote of no confidence last year, and was not present when he was sentenced Saturday.

The judge also fined him 100,000 rupees (around $350).

Soon after the ruling, police entered his home in Lahore and arrested him.

"I have just received the information that Imran Khan has been arrested," Attaullah Tarar, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, told reporters.

Party officials said Khan had been taken to the capital, while his legal team said they would be filing an immediate appeal.

"It's important to mention there was no chance given to present witnesses, neither was time allotted to round up arguments," a member of the team said.

Parliament is likely to be dissolved after it completes its term in the next two weeks, with national elections to be held by mid-November or earlier.

"Everyone will ask questions about the credibility of elections in the absence of PTI and Imran Khan and questions will be raised about the credibility of elections in the outside world as well," political analyst Hasan Askari told AFP.

Khan rose to power in 2018 on a wave of popular support, an anti-corruption manifesto, and the backing of the powerful military establishment.

When he was ousted in April last year, analysts said it was because he lost the backing of the top generals.

In multiple speeches and interviews Khan has highlighted the power the top brass wield behind the scenes -- a subject historically considered a red line in Pakistan.

The case that has led to his arrest centres on gifts Khan and his wife received while in office.

Pakistan newspapers have for months carried lurid stories alleging Khan and his wife received lavish presents worth millions during trips abroad -- including luxury watches, jewellery, designer handbags and perfumes.

Government officials must declare all gifts, but are allowed to keep those below a certain value or buy them at an officially agreed price.

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