What does Imran Khan’s jail sentence mean for Pakistan election?

February 1, 2024 9:00 am

[Source: Reuters]

Former Pakistani Prime Minister and cricket star Imran Khan was jailed for 14 years on charges of illegally selling state gifts, a day after he received a 10-year sentence for leaking state secrets.

The convictions come days before a national election scheduled for Feb. 8.

Here are some facts on how these sentences influence his political future, his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, and the upcoming election:

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– Khan, 71, was already barred from holding public office for five years following an earlier graft conviction, which ruled him out of next week’s polls.

– Wednesday’s sentence extends that ban on Khan from holding public office to 10 years, which means he could not be prime minister again until 2034.

– The convictions also mean Khan, in jail since August, will not be able to come out of jail to campaign for his party’s candidates in the election.

– Khan’s absence has already left his party in disarray, with many key aides jailed, on the run, or having abandoned him in the face of a spate of legal challenges.

– There are a number of candidates backed by Khan and his party that are contesting next week’s election, but there are no big political names to carry his party in his absence.

– PTI is temporarily being led by a little known lawyer, Gohar Ali Khan, who is also Khan’s legal counsel.

– On Jan. 14, Khan’s party was stripped of its traditional electoral symbol of a cricket bat in a court ruling, which means his candidates are contesting as independents.

– Even if PTI-backed candidates win, as independents they are not bound to stay with the party and are open to joining other parties – and Khan remaining in jail for the foreseeable future increases the chances of this.

– The support of victorious independent candidates in the aftermath of the polls will be crucial for any party vying to secure the numbers necessary in parliament to form a government.