Kuala Lumpur Post


Pakistan ex-PM Imran Khan granted bail but remains jailed

ISLAMABAD —  Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan was granted bail Friday in a case alleging he leaked state secrets, lawyers said, but he remained jailed on other charges ahead of an election due in February.

Khan – detained since August – alleges the powerful military is colluding with dynastic parties that have long dominated Pakistan to crush his populist movement and prevent him from standing for office.

The 71-year-old has been pummelled by a barrage of legal cases since being ousted in April 2022 after falling out with the top brass, and has twice been jailed.

“The case has completely collapsed, and Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi have finally been granted bail,” lawyer Salman Safdar told reporters outside court, referring to Khan’s former foreign minister who is being held over the same case.

Prosecutors allege the pair mishandled a diplomatic cable sent by Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States.

Prosecution for the alleged offence took place inside jail and the trial began in private, until a legal challenge forced the court to restart proceedings with observers present.

The top court in its short order said that “there are not reasonable grounds for believing” that an offence under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a possible 14-year prison term or death sentence, was committed by Khan.

“There are sufficient grounds for further inquiry into their guilt of said offence, which is to be finally decided by the learned trial court,” the court said.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party said he remains incarcerated over numerous separate graft cases, with scant chance he will leave prison to contest elections due February 8.

“The prospect of him obtaining relief in the near future appears to be very slim,” party lawyer Khalid Yousaf Chaudry told AFP.

The fate of politicians in Pakistan has historically ridden on their relationship to the military establishment, which has directly ruled the country on several occasions.

Hugely popular Khan rose to power in 2018 with the backing of the army. But when he was ousted by a parliamentary no-confidence vote he claimed generals had conspired with Washington to end his term.

He publically touted diplomatic documents as supposed evidence for his claims.

In the months after he was ousted, Khan was able to draw vast crowds at rallies, where he waged an unprecedented campaign of defiance against the military.

He was briefly arrested for the first time in May sparking days of deadly unrest resulting in a huge crackdown on PTI which saw most senior figures defect, be arrested or driven underground. — AFP

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