ISLAMABAD, Aug 5 (PTI): Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested on Saturday after he was found guilty in a corruption trial and sentenced to three years in prison, a verdict that disqualified him for five years from holding any public office.
Additional Judge Humayun Dilawar of the Islamabad-based district and sessions court found Khan, 70, guilty of unlawfully selling state gifts during his tenure as Prime Minister from 2018 to 2022.
The judge also imposed a fine of Rs 100,000 on Khan, adding that the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party would be kept in jail for another six months if failed to pay the fine.
Khan has been “found guilty of corrupt practices by hiding the benefits he acquired from the national Exchequer willfully 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 order said.
The Toshakhana is a department under the Cabinet Division that stores gifts given to rulers and government officials by heads of other governments and foreign dignitaries.
The court convicted the cricketer-turned-politician under Section 174 of the Election Act 2017 and sentenced him to three years of simple imprisonment.
Saturday’s verdict centred on charges that Khan incorrectly declared details of presents from foreign dignitaries and proceeds from their alleged sale.
According to reports, Khan received 58 gifts worth more than Rs 140 million from world leaders during his three-and-a-half-year stint and retained all of them either by paying a negligible amount or even without any payment.
The gift Khan kept with himself included a diamond watch, a pair of cufflinks, a ring, a pen and several watches.
“His dishonesty has been established beyond doubt,” judge Dilawar wrote in his ruling.
PTI spokesman Zulfi Bokhari informed journalists through WhatsApp that Khan was disqualified for five years from holding any public office under the Constitution.
The unexpected development came as Pakistan is heading for the general elections, with the current government set to complete its term on August 12.
Khan was later arrested from his Zaman Park residence in Lahore by the Islamabad police in coordination with the Punjab police after the court verdict, his family said.
Punjab information minister Amir Mir said in a statement that Khan is being taken to Islamabad by police.
Khan is being flown to Islamabad via helicopter, PTI’s legal team said.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s special assistant Attaullah Tarar has confirmed the arrest of Khan. “It will be decided later whether he is to be kept at Adiala Jail Rawalpindi or elsewhere,” he said while talking to reporters.
After Saturday’s verdict, Imran technically stands disqualified from holding any public office for five years under Article 63(1)(h) of the Constitution.
The law states: “A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Parliament if he has been, on conviction for any offence involving moral turpitude, sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years, unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release.”
He, however, has the right to appeal the verdict.
Khan’s legal team said they would be filing an immediate appeal.
In a pre-recorded message shared on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter, a few hours after arrest, Imran said: “By the time this message reaches you, I will be in jail.”
Khan said: “I want you to continue peaceful protests and not to sit quietly inside your houses.”
“My movement is not for myself, but for you, for the future of your children,” he stressed, recalling that Pakistan too was founded on the concept of freedom.
“If you will not stand up for your rights, you will live a life that is of slaves and slaves have no life. Slaves are similar to how ants are — on the ground — they do not fly high.
“This is a battle for your rights and freedom … you have to continue peaceful protests until you get your rights, which is seeing a government elected by you and not a qabza (encroachment) mafia,” Khan added.
Imran’s lawyer Barrister Gohar Khan expressed his disappointment and deemed it “a murder of justice”.
“Justice was murdered. We weren’t even given a chance. We weren’t even allowed to cross [question], to say anything in defence or conduct our arguments. I haven’t seen this kind of injustice before,” he was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.
This is for the second time in three months that Khan has been arrested.
Unlike previous instances, Khan was detained on Saturday without any major resistance.
He was arrested on May 9 in Islamabad from the high court’s premises in the Al-Qadir Trust corruption case, sparking violent protests by his supporters.
Khan has been slapped with more than 150 legal cases, including several on charges of corruption, terrorism and inciting people to violence over deadly protests.
Khan was indicted in the Toshakhana case in May which was filed last year on the complaint of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) which had disqualified him in the same case in October 2022.
The verdict came a day after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) set aside a session court’s verdict to uphold the maintainability of the Toshakhana case for criminal proceedings against Khan.
Born to a Pashtun family in Lahore, Khan graduated from Keble College, Oxford. He began his international cricket career in a 1971 Test series against England.
Khan played until 1992 and served as the team’s captain intermittently between 1982 and 1992. Under his captaincy, Pakistan won the 1992 Cricket World Cup, the country’s only victory in the competition.
From 1995 to 2004, Khan was married to Jemima Goldsmith, a British socialite turned writer and activist. They have two sons. The marriage ended amicably in divorce in 2004.
In 2015, Khan announced his second marriage to the British Pakistani journalist Reham Khan. The marriage lasted nine months and ended in divorce in 2015.
In 2018, he married Bushra Bibi, who was previously his spiritual mentor.