A Pakistani court has sentenced former Prime Minister Imran Khan and one of his party deputies to 10 years in prison for leaking official country secrets. The verdict, announced in a prison in Rawalpindi, comes as Khan is already serving a three-year prison sentence for corruption, after being ousted in a parliamentary confidence vote in April 2022.
The ruling, known as the "Password" case, implicated Khan and his deputy, former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in the mishandling of a telegram sent by Pakistan's ambassador to the US. The cable alleges Washington was complicit in a plot to remove Khan from office in 2022.
Authorities say both men have the right to appeal the ruling. The timing of the decision is particularly noteworthy, just weeks before Pakistan's parliamentary elections on February 8. Khan, however, was disqualified from running due to a previous conviction.
Despite his absence from the ballot, Khan remains a powerful political figure, fueled by a large following across the country. The former prime minister claims that the court proceedings against him are part of a conspiracy to prevent his participation in the elections.
Pakistan's Independent Human Rights Commission has expressed skepticism about the fairness of the upcoming elections, citing concerns over the exclusion of Khan and other prominent politicians from his Tehrik-e-Insaf party.
The commission expressed doubts about the prospects for a free and fair election process. The "Password" case is just one of more than 150 legal challenges facing Khan, the former cricket star turned Islamist politician. Charges against him include contempt of court, terrorism and incitement to violence.
Khan waved a classified document during a rally after his ouster, claiming it was proof of threats against him and that his removal was part of a US-led conspiracy orchestrated by Pakistan's military and government. Both Washington and Pakistani officials strongly denied the allegations.
Once the strongest political figure in Pakistan with millions of followers was sentenced to 10 years, but we will see what will happen after the appeal.