Court seeks government response over Imran Khan's appeal, refuses to release him from Attock jail - GulfToday

Court seeks government response over Imran Khan's appeal, refuses to release him from Attock jail


Imran Khan listens to a member of media during talk with reporters regarding the current political situation at his residence in Lahore. File / AP

A top Pakistani court on Wednesday said it wanted to hear from the government before deciding over former prime minister Imran Khan's appeal against his imprisonment on corruption charges.

Imran was arrested at his Lahore home on Saturday and given a three-year jail sentence on charges of concealing assets. He is held at the high-security prison Attock in the eastern Punjab province while his legal team seeks his release.

His appeal hearing is underway, but the Islamabad High Court (IHC) gave Imran no immediate relief and he remains behind bars. The court said it seeks government response and would hear from the Election Commission of Pakistan's lawyers before deciding on Imran Khan's appeal.

The commission last year disqualified Imran Khan from holding public office for five years accusing him of unlawfully selling state gifts and concealing assets as premier. Imran Khan was notified of his disqualification again on Tuesday following his sentencing.

The court adjourned without setting a date for the following hearing, dealing a blow to Imran Khan's legal team.

Imran-lawyer Imran Khan's lawyer Naeem Haider Panjutha (C) speaks to the media outside the Islamabad High Court building. AFP

Since his arrest, Imran met only once with one of his lawyers, Naeem Haider Panjutha, at the Attock prison. Panjutha along with other lawyers were present on Imran Khan's behalf in court on Wednesday while the ex-premier remained in prison.

Panjutha asked for the former premier's release, saying that Imran did not violate any laws and his arrest was illegal. Addressing reporters, he said, "we were not properly heard today.”

Imran Khan's lawyer had also asked on Monday for his transfer to a prison where there are special cells for under-trial and imprisoned politicians. Usually, high-profile personalities are kept at the Adiyala prison in Rawalpindi after their arrest.

Imran Khan — who was ousted in a no-confidence vote in April 2022 but remains a popular figure in the country — has denied the charges.

This comes as Imran Khan’s successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, is set to dissolve parliament later on Wednesday after the completion of its term.

Shahbaz held his last cabinet meeting and said in televised comments he had faced multiple challenges, including the country's worst economic crisis and devastating floods which killed 1,739 people and caused $30 billion in damage in Pakistan in 2022.

Pakistan was able to negotiate a $3 billion bailout package with the International Monetary Fund, potentially saving the country from defaulting on its debt repayments. Later, Shahbaz addressed lawmakers in the National Assembly.

Though the dissolution could pave the way for parliamentary elections by mid-November, the government could delay the vote by several months if it decides to redraw constituencies based on recent census results.

Under Pakistan’s constitution, after Shahbaz steps down and the parliament is disbanded, a caretaker government is installed to run day-to-day affairs for 90 days until the next election. So far Sharif has not revealed who will become the caretaker prime minister.

Shahbaz Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League party is expected to face tough competition from Imran Khan’s party - though Imran Khan himself would be unable to take part unless he is granted an appeal is released from prison.

Under Pakistan’s laws, no convicted person is eligible to lead a party, run in elections, or hold public office.


Associated Press

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