Imran Khan: former Pakistan PM disqualified by election commission

Cricketer-turned-politician found guilty of unlawfully concealing and selling state gifts

Experts say former Pakistan PM Imran Khan will lose his seat in the National Assembly because of the Election Commission's verdict.  AP
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Pakistan’s election commission has disqualified former prime minister Imran Khan from holding office, after finding him guilty of unlawfully selling state gifts received from heads of other nations and foreign dignitaries.

The verdict was announced on Friday by a four-member bench in Islamabad headed by chief election commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja.

Criminal proceedings will be initiated against Mr Khan, the commission said.

A complaint was filed in August against the cricketer-turned-politician by the coalition government, for “not sharing details” of gifts he had received and proceeds from their alleged sale.

The gifts included expensive wristwatches given by a royal family, according to government officials, who have alleged previously that Mr Khan's aides sold them in Dubai.

Politicians from the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement alliance referred the case to National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who subsequently forwarded it to the commission for further action.

According to legal experts, Mr Khan will lose his seat in the National Assembly because of the Election Commission's verdict.

The latest decision comes months after the Pakistani parliament ousted Mr Khan in a no-confidence vote.

Angered over Mr Khan’s disqualification, his Tehreek-e-Insaf party urged supporters to take to the streets to peacefully condemn the commission’s decision, which Mr Khan’s party was expecting.

Dozens of Mr Khan’s supporters were seen chanting slogans against the government and authorities at the Election Commission on Friday. Hundreds of others blocked a key road in the north-western city of Peshawar, disrupting traffic. His supporters were also holding small rallies in major cities in the country.

Mr Khan’s hundreds of supporters briefly clashed with police in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. However, the demonstrators dispersed when police swung batons and fired tear gas shells, according to local media reports. The government used additional security forces in Islamabad to maintain law and order.

Friday’s order will fuel more political uncertainty in Pakistan because Mr Khan has already said that he will lead his supporters in a march to Islamabad to press his demand for early elections. The turmoil comes as the South Asian nation grapples with economic troubles.

Mr Khan has hit the streets for the past six months, calling for early elections and targeting state institutions including Pakistan's powerful army, claiming, without proof, that it colluded with the US and his political opponents, led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, to oust him in April. All reject the allegation.

Mr Khan is currently flush from a sweeping victory in recent by-elections where he won six out of seven seats he personally contested in a display of his popular appeal. He has been holding packed public rallies across Pakistan.

Mr Khan rode to power in 2018 on a populist platform promising social reform, religious conservatism and a fight against corruption, overturning decades of rule by two feuding political dynasties interspersed with military takeovers.

But under his tenure the economy stagnated and he lost the support of the army, despite suspicion among his critics that the military had helped him get elected.

Updated: October 21, 2022, 1:08 PM