Imran Khan arrested after prison sentence on corruption charges, party says


Pakistan’s main opposition leader and former prime minister, Imran Khan, was arrested Saturday after a court found him guilty of corruption charges and sentenced him to three years in prison, according to senior members of his party and his defense team.

The arrest in Lahore raises the stakes of the country’s political crisis just days before the Pakistani government is expected to dissolve parliament and pave the way for a general election later this year. Khan was likely to run in that election, but Saturday’s court ruling — which can still be appealed — also bans him from running for office for five years, Pakistani media outlets reported. Khan has denied the accusations against him.

Three months ago, Khan’s arrest linked to separate corruption charges sparked days of violent clashes between supporters of his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or Movement for Justice, and the police. Khan’s arrest was eventually ruled to have been unlawful and he was released.

Pakistani Supreme Court declares Imran Khan arrest unlawful

A copy of Saturday’s verdict by an Islamabad trial court was not immediately available. The former prime minister also faces a number of other charges in separate cases, all of which he has rejected.

In remarks to journalists, senior interior affairs official Attaullah Tarar said the outcome of the trial — which centered on allegations that Khan sold state gifts from foreign dignitaries — proved that the former prime minister “has been proven to be a convicted thief and criminal.”

But Khan’s tens of millions of supporters in Pakistan are likely to view Saturday’s verdict as politically motivated.

Khan was ousted by parliament in April last year after, according to his allies, the military dropped its support for him. Several attempts to arrest him failed, including one this March that resulted in violent clashes.

Public disputes between Khan, the military and the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had mounted in intensity in May, after Khan accused a senior officer of involvement in an assassination attempt against him in November, which he narrowly survived. Military and government officials have strongly denied those claims.


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