ATTOCK, Pakistan — Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan woke up Sunday as a prisoner in a high-security prison after a court sentenced him to three years in prison for corruption, a development that could end his political future. your.
The court ruled Saturday that national cricket hero Khan, who was ousted in a vote of no confidence in April 2022 but remains the country’s leading opposition figure, had conceal assets after selling state gifts.
A prison sentence could prevent him from participating in politics under a law that prohibits people with criminal records from holding or running for office. He could also lose the chairmanship of the party he founded, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI.
Critics say efforts to get Khan behind bars are politically motivated and have intensified ahead of elections to be held later this year.
They argue that Khan’s popularity and large support base, combined with his ability to mobilize huge crowds, pose a threat to the ruling coalition and its supporters in the mighty military. Pakistan’s power has been the ultimate arbiter of the country’s politics since independence from Britain in 1947.
This is the second time this year that Khan has been detained, along with other former Pakistani prime ministers who have been arrested and seen military intervention throughout the country’s political history.
But his current residence at Attock prison is a far cry from his detention conditions in May when he was taken to a fully furnished guesthouse on a police compound in Islamabad by order of the Supreme Court. . After that, he was allowed to visit and meet his colleagues at the party.
Attock Prison, in eastern Punjab province, is known for its harsh conditions and its inmates include convicted fighters.
Authorities have tightened security further around the prison, which already has armed guards in the watchtowers, by erecting barricades and blocking roads to keep people away. They have also instructed locals to keep media out of their roofs to prevent photos and videos from being leaked.
One local resident, Muhammad Farooq Khattak, lamented the tough measures.
“Imran (Khan) is in this prison,” he said. “They closed the roads so no one would kidnap him. I’m a retired military man so I know the sensitivity of the matter. There is no logic to close this path. That’s a big deal for us.”
PTI attorney Shoaib Shaheen told The Associated Press that police at the prison refused to let the legal team come to see Khan. He said the party would file an appeal because there were “lots of loopholes in the verdict.”
In May, Khan’s arrest on corruption charges sparked a wave of protests across the country. A few days later, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered his release, saying that his arrest was illegal.