In a stunning turn of events, former Pakistan prime minister and cricket legend Imran Khan has been handed down a 10-year prison sentence. He along with ex-foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi faces the charges for allegedly leaking state secrets. This verdict is delivered by special court Judge Abul Hasnat Zulqarnain.
It comes just ahead of the crucial February 8 general elections, adding a layer of complexity to the political landscape of the country. Imran Khan, already serving a three-year term on corruption charges, now faces an additional legal setback. The special court at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, established under the Official Secrets Act, made the ruling based on accusations of mishandling classified information.
The cipher case, dating back to a public rally on March 27, 2022, revolves around a purported diplomatic cable that Khan had brandished. In the rally, Imran alleged it was evidence of an "international conspiracy" against his government. Filed by the Federal Investigation Agency in August last year, the case accuses Khan and Qureshi of violating secrecy laws while handling the cable from the Pakistan embassy in Washington.
Will Imran Khan be able to make a comeback?
Imran Khan's political entity, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party, has been facing a series of challenges, including the denial of its election symbol, the cricket bat, and the rejection of nomination papers for Khan, Qureshi, and other party leaders.
Responding to the verdict, PTI leaders decried the case as a "sham" with restricted access to media and the public. The party's legal team intends to challenge the decision in a higher court, emphasizing the questionable proceedings and the denial of access to the legal team.
This latest blow to Imran Khan and Qureshi follows their initial indictment in October 2023, a process later reversed by the Islamabad High Court, which ruled against in-camera proceedings. Despite the legal hurdles and setbacks, the PTI remains resolute in challenging the decisions and maintaining its stance against what it perceives as a hurried and unfair judgment. The unfolding legal saga adds intrigue to the political scenario in the lead-up to the elections.