Lahore/Washington: The future of former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan looks uncertain even as his political outfit Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate Inam Ullah won by a considerable margin in the Peshawar elections today despite Khan’s arrest on Saturday, August 5, 2023, in the Toshakhana case. In this particular case, Imran was found guilty by an Islamabad trial court of retaining state gifts worth more than Pakistani rupee 140 million (about US $ 6,35,000) and sentenced to three years of simple imprisonment under Section 174 of the Election Act 2017. Police had to resort to firing tear gas to disperse his supporters in Peshawar.
Imran, a legendary cricketer-turned-politician who rose to become Pakistan’s 22nd prime minister, was soon thereafter arrested from his Lahore residence and sent to the Attock jail. A Press Trust of India report said the trial court had actually ordered the Islamabad police chief to arrest and take him to Adiala jail in Rawalpindi but he was arrested by the Punjab police and taken to the notorious Attock jail in the eastern Punjab province notorious for its inmates that include convicted militants.
Imran’s arrest comes at a time when Pakistan heads for general elections later this year after the competition of the term of the current National Assembly of Pakistan on August 12, 2013. Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif already recently announced the schedule for the general election in Pakistan.
In Washington, when a Pakistani journalist probed the United States of America’s stand on the establishment of Pakistan trying to disqualify Imran, on grounds that the “US always has stood with the true values of democracy and free and fair elections”, the US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on August 2, 2023, that “we do not take positions on behalf of the United States supporting one candidate or another in other countries. We support free and open and fair elections”.
Release #ImranKhan is the demand of whole nation. The murder of justice is making Pakistan look bad. This man gave positive representation to several generations of Pakistanis globally! Salute to all protesting today despite worst fascism in the country. #پر_امن_ملک_گیر_احتجاج pic.twitter.com/xaco7jjclH
— Jibran Ilyas (@agentjay2009) August 5, 2023
This has been the second time since May 2023, that he has been arrested. On May 9 he was arrested from inside the High Court in capital Islamabad by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on the charges of corruption in connection with the Al-Qadir Trust, which he owns alongside his wife, Bushra Bibi, which resulted in massive demonstrations by his party men. He was, however, released the following day after the Supreme Court of Pakistan deemed his arrest unlawful and ordered his immediate release. Shortly upon his release, Khan directly accused the army chief Asim Munir of playing a role in his arrest.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is now leading the PTI in Imran’s absence of Khan, has asked the party workers to take to the streets in a ‘peaceful’ way in a video message. The PTI’s official Twitter handle says: “The man who stood his ground and didn’t run away … name is #ImranKhan!”
The Islamabad trial court found Imran guilty of corrupt practices by hiding the benefits he acquired from the national exchequer wilfully and intentionally. “He cheated while providing information about gifts he obtained from the Toshakhana which later proved to be false and inaccurate. His dishonesty has been established beyond doubt,” the court order said.
It may be mentioned that Pakistani PMs and heads of state are allowed to retain gifts that cost less than PKR 30,000 for themselves, but as per law, they are required to keep more expensive gifts in the Toshakhana. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had filed a complaint against Imran that he “deliberately concealed his assets relating to Toshakhana gifts retained by him, particularly in the years 2018 and 2019.”
Imran’s imprisonment though seems just the beginning of a long ordeal that awaits the PTI chairman and former PM. What is equally significant is that the US, which used to have a major say in Pakistan’s affairs, has maintained a stand on Imran’s issue that it does not have a position on one political candidate or party versus another in Pakistan or “in any other country”.
– global bihari bureau