Imran Khan challenges Pakistan ruling disqualifying him from office

Former cricket star's lawyer said he was hopeful the verdict would be reversed

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Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan has challenged an election commission ruling disqualifying him from holding public office for five years.

The commission found Mr Khan illegally sold state gifts and concealed assets in his time as Pakistan premiere.

Mr Khan’s lawyer Ali Zafar said he was hopeful the court would reverse the verdict.

The ruling disqualifies him from holding public office for five years under Pakistani law. He automatically lost his seat in parliament.

Mr Khan, a former cricket star, was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament in April.

The announcement by the commission came as Mr Khan has been rallying supporters against the new government of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and calling for early elections.

Protesters briefly clashed with police on Friday outside the capital of Islamabad.

Mr Khan later urged supporters to disperse peacefully and wait for his call for a march on Islamabad.

PTI supporters gather after former Prime Minister Imran Khan's disqualification. Reuters

His spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said a petition challenging the disqualification was filed in Islamabad High Court in a bid for an urgent hearing.

The commission’s decision followed a petition from Mr Sharif’s coalition government seeking action against Mr Khan over allegations he unlawfully sold state gifts.

In Pakistan, government leaders are allowed to buy back gifts, but they are not usually sold. If they are, individuals must declare that as income.

Mr Khan, who came to power in 2018, said his government was toppled by Mr Sharif as part of a US plot.

He did not provide evidence to back his claims, which both Mr Sharif and the US have denied.

Pakistan is struggling with a spiraling economy, food shortages and the aftermath of unprecedented floods this summer that killed 1,725 people, displaced hundreds of thousands and triggered a surge in malaria and other flood-related diseases.

Updated: October 22, 2022, 1:13 PM