Imran Khan arrested after jail sentence for corruption, his party says

Published Aug 5, 2023


Pakistan's main opposition leader and former prime minister, Imran Khan, was arrested Saturday, according to senior members of his party and his defense team, after a court found him guilty of corruption charges and sentenced him to three years in prison.

The arrest in Lahore raises the stakes of the country's political crisis just days before the Pakistani government is expected to dissolve parliament and pave the way for a general election. Khan was likely to run in that election, but Saturday's court ruling - which Khan's legal team is appealing - could also lead to him being banned from running for office.

Khan, who denied the accusations against him, appeared to have expected his arrest. In a prerecorded video message to his supporters, Khan urged them to protest the court ruling. "Don't keep hiding at home," he said.

Three months ago, Khan's arrest linked to separate corruption charges sparked days of violent clashes between supporters of his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or Movement for Justice, and the police. Khan's arrest was eventually ruled to have been unlawful and he was released.

But the fallout of the violent confrontations in May left Khan's party weakened. Scores of Khan's aides abandoned the opposition leader, with some blaming pressure from the country's powerful military that had itself become a target of attacks by pro-Khan protesters.

Thousands of rioters who were arrested in May remain in jail and there were no immediate reports of major clashes on Saturday. Khan is expected to be held in a prison near the capital city of Islamabad.

The former prime minister also faces a number of other charges in separate cases, all of which he has denied.

In remarks to journalists, senior interior affairs official Attaullah Tarar said the outcome of the trial - which centered on allegations that Khan sold state gifts from foreign dignitaries - showed that Khan "has been proven to be a convicted thief and criminal."

But Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the vice chairman of Khan's party, said the trial was "biased," "pre-determined" and "political."

Khan was ousted by Parliament in April last year after, according to his allies, the military dropped its support for him. Several attempts to arrest him failed, including one this March that resulted in violent clashes.

Public disputes between Khan, the military and the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif mounted in intensity in May, after Khan accused a senior officer of involvement in an assassination attempt against him in November, which he narrowly survived. Military and government officials have strongly denied those claims.

Noack reported from Paris and Hussain from Islamabad. Haq Nawaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan, contributed to this report.