Pakistani court convicts jailed ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan of revealing secrets ahead of elections

BY MUNIR AHMED |

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Pakistani court convicted former Prime Minister Imran Khan of revealing official secrets on Tuesday and sentenced him to 10 years — the latest in a slew of legal cases that supporters say are meant to sideline the imprisoned former cricket star just days ahead of parliamentary elections.

The Islamist politician, who was ousted in a no-confidence vote in 2022, is not on the ballot because he is already serving a three-year prison term — and more than 150 other cases are still pending against him. He nonetheless remains a potent political force because of his grassroots following and anti-establishment rhetoric.

However, Pakistan saw violent demonstrations after Khan’s arrest last year, and authorities have cracked down on his supporters and party since then, making them wary of staging rallies.

The Feb. 8 elections come at a sensitive time in Pakistan, which is mired in an economic crisis that Khan’s successor, Shehbaz Sharif, has struggled to manage. Sharif was only able to get a bailout from the International Monetary Fund by agreeing to a substantial increase in tariffs on gas and electricity that led to alarming price hikes on everyday goods and made his party unpopular.

On Tuesday, Khan was convicted in what is popularly known as the cipher case, in which he was accused of exposing state secrets by waving a confidential document at a rally. The document has not been made public but is believed to be diplomatic correspondence between the Pakistani ambassador to Washington and the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad.

Khan claimed the document was proof he was being threatened and that his ouster was a U.S. conspiracy, allegedly executed by the military and the government in Pakistan. American and Pakistani officials have denied the claim.

A special court at the prison in the garrison city of Rawalpindi where Khan is being held announced the verdict, according to Zulfiqar Bukhari, chief spokesman for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, or PTI.

A senior official in the party, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who was accused of manipulating the contents of the diplomatic cable to gain political advantage, was also convicted and received a 10-year sentence.

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