Pakistan: Ex-PM Imran Khan barred from office, disqualification sparks protests

Election Commission finds former leader guilty of unlawfully selling gifts

By Reuters

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Published: Fri 21 Oct 2022, 5:53 PM

Last updated: Fri 21 Oct 2022, 5:56 PM

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was barred from holding public office on Friday after the top election tribunal found him guilty of unlawfully selling gifts from foreign dignitaries and heads of state, a lawyer and a minister said.

The ruling adds to the political and economic uncertainty plaguing Pakistan since earlier this year when Khan was ousted from power, and supporters took to the streets in different cities in protest, blocking roads and highways and setting tyres on fire.

The 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician was accused of misusing his 2018-2022 premiership to buy and sell gifts in state possession that were received during visits abroad and worth more than 140 million rupees ($635,000).

The gifts included watches, according to government officials.

Khan has denied the charges.

The tribunal, the Election Commission of Pakistan, was to give a detailed ruling later in the day saying how long the former premier would be barred from public office for. Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar said Khan would be disqualified for five years.

Under Pakistani law, a legislator found guilty of corruption or misuse of public office can be barred for up to five years.

Faisal Chaudhry, a lawyer in Khan's team, told Reuters the tribunal had no jurisdiction in the matter and that a challenge would be filed.

"It's an illegal and unconstitutional order," he said.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif welcomed the ruling, however, writing on Twitter that the prime minister's post was made into a source of personal income through "corrupt practices".

Khan supporters protested in different cities, officials said.

In the northwestern city of Peshawar, where Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party runs the provincial government, groups of supporters, dozens each in size, blocked a number of key roads including the highway connecting the city to the capital Islamabad, to the dismay of drivers.

"I am going to our village for the weekend with my family and was waiting in the car for more than two hours as the roads are blocked by the PTI workers," said Hameed Khan in Peshawar.

A few dozen protesters tried to block one key artery into Islamabad and were pushed back with teargas, said police official Sohail Khan. He said that the protesters attacked the police with bricks, injuring three officials, and had tried unsuccessfully to block others roads in the capital as well.

Dozens of Imran Khan’s supporters also blocked roads in the eastern city of Lahore, setting fire to tyres.

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