Pakistan’s jailed former prime minister Imran Khan will contest the upcoming general elections from at least three constituencies despite conviction and incarceration, his party announced on Wednesday.
On August 5, the 71-year-old former cricketer-turned-politician was convicted by a trial court in Islamabad in the Toshakahana corruption case filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan and arrested.
The verdict meant the founding chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was disqualified from contesting elections for five years. However, days later the Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended his three-year sentence and he remains in jail in other cases. His conviction has not been set aside so far, making him ineligible for any public office.
However, undeterred by the legal hurdles, PTI leader Ali Zafar said that Khan would contest in the February 8 general election.
“We want to inform you that Imran Khan will contest elections from at least three constituencies and we hope that the IHC will announce its judgment soon in the Toshakhana case, as the election schedule has been issued,” Zafar told the media outside Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi.
Newly-appointed PTI chief Barrister Gohar Khan said that Khan would contest from the Lahore, Islamabad and Mianwali constituencies.
Gohar added that Khan would be provided with his nomination papers tomorrow, vowing that “Khan sahib will contest these polls, God willing”.
He said he too would participate in the upcoming polls from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Buner constituency.
Khan was disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for five years from holding any public office following the Toshakhana case verdict after he was found guilty of corrupt practices under Section 167 of the Elections Act, 2017. Khan faces scores of cases, most of them registered after his ouster from power in April 2022.
In a related development, PTI chief Gohar Khan alleged that hurdles were being created for their candidates to contest the elections. “The nomination papers were snatched from Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s secretary in Adiala jail,” he claimed.
Qureshi is the Vice President of the party and is currently incarcerated in the Adiala Jail in the cipher case. Khan has also been kept in the same jail.
Zafar said that the PTI workers had been given directions to file their nomination papers.
“As long as the PTI candidates are concerned, our workers in jail, who have rendered sacrifices for the party in this difficult time, would be 100% allotted tickets on a priority basis,” he said.
“The rest of the candidates have also been finalised and their names will be announced soon,” Zafar added.
He added that stopping party workers from filing nomination papers was an “undemocratic exercise” and would jeopardise free and fair elections.