Pakistan ex-PM Imran indicted for leaking classified documents

2023 10 23 Imran Khan PAKISTAN POLITICS KHAN scaled
FILE PHOTO: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks with Reuters during an interview, in Lahore, Pakistan March 17, 2023. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro/File Photo

Yesterday, a Pakistani court formally charged former prime-minister Imran Khan with the offence of disclosing confidential government information following his removal from office in 2022. This development is part of a series of legal actions taken against Khan, potentially resulting in a severe penalty, including the death sentence, and probable disqualification from participating in the parliamentary elections scheduled for January.

Imran Khan and his close associate, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who serves as the deputy leader of Khan’s opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, are set to stand trial later this week at a heavily guarded prison in Rawalpindi.

The charge of divulging state secrets carries a range of penalties, from life imprisonment to capital punishment. The trial is slated to commence on Friday, with both Khan and Qureshi vehemently denying the allegations against them. These proceedings will be held in a special court behind closed doors at the Adiyala Prison, where Khan is currently detained. Khan’s legal team has also objected to the non-public nature of the trial.

The case revolves around Khan’s public presentation of a confidential diplomatic letter during a rally following his ouster through a vote of no confidence in the parliament in 2022. This document, referred to as “Cipher,” has not been disclosed by either the government or Khan’s legal representatives but is believed to be diplomatic correspondence between the Pakistani ambassador to Washington and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad.

At that time, Khan displayed the alleged letter, contending that it provided evidence of threats against him and suggested that his removal was a U.S.-backed conspiracy orchestrated by Pakistan’s military and government. Both American and Pakistani officials have refuted these claims.

Imran Khan is currently facing over 150 cases, encompassing charges ranging from contempt of court to terrorism and incitement of violence. In early August, he received a three-year sentence for corruption charges, which was subsequently suspended by the Islamabad High Court, marking a legal victory for Khan. However, this triumph was short-lived, as he was promptly re-arrested in late August in connection with the Cipher case.

As of now, Khan is disqualified from running in the January elections for two reasons: firstly, he must be acquitted of the corruption charges in the graft case, and secondly, the charges related to the Cipher case must be dropped, or he must be cleared of them.

During the weekend, Khan’s primary political rival and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan after spending four years in self-imposed exile in London. Sharif held a large homecoming rally in Lahore, expressing forgiveness to those who had caused him hardship.

In the upcoming January vote, Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League party are expected to face stiff competition from Khan’s party, which enjoys significant popularity among the public.

Sharif had been evading authorities since his failure to appear before a Pakistani court in 2019, during Khan’s term as prime minister, following his conviction and a 10-year prison sentence on corruption charges. However, a federal court recently granted him protection from arrest, prompting his return to Pakistan.



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