Pakistan court blocks Imran Khan’s release from prison

Popular former prime minister fights barrage of legal cases that threaten his political comeback

A Pakistani judge has blocked Imran Khan’s release from prison a day after another court overturned a three-year sentence against him, as the popular former prime minister fights a barrage of legal cases that threaten to hamper his political comeback.

Mr Khan, whom many analysts had considered the favourite candidate ahead of upcoming national elections in Pakistan, was jailed this month on corruption allegations. His allies say he faces as many as 200 separate legal cases.

But while Islamabad’s high court on Tuesday overturned the sentence, another court on Wednesday ruled that Mr Khan must remain in jail until at least September 13th as he fights a separate accusation of exposing official secrets. He denies all the allegations.

The legal manoeuvring highlights the fading chances that Mr Khan, who has been barred from active politics for five years as part of his conviction, can make a return in time for the next elections, which are expected in early 2024.


Since he was removed as prime minister in a no-confidence vote last year, Mr Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party have surged in popularity thanks to an often vitriolic campaign for re-election.

In opposition, he has repeatedly clashed with the country’s powerful military, which is highly influential behind the scenes and on whom he had long depended for support.

In recent months, Pakistan’s authorities have arrested thousands of Mr Khan supporters and pressured PTI leaders to break ties with him.

Authorities this month also announced that national polls, which were due to be held this year, would probably be delayed by months as they redrew electoral boundaries based on a new census.

Analysts said the sequence of events around Mr Khan’s jailing and the election delay highlighted the lengths to which the country’s power brokers, including the army, had gone to prevent his return.

Mr Khan’s opponents “are keeping the lid on PTI and they can’t afford elections because they’ll be wiped out”, said Ayaz Amir, a former member of parliament and a political commentator. “The PTI has to be kept out. Imran Khan remains in prison and their leading activists will be kept behind bars.”

Shehbaz Sharif, who replaced Mr Khan as prime minister last year, stepped down this month and handed over power to a caretaker government that will govern the country until elections are held.

The political turmoil has come alongside a severe economic crisis in Pakistan that includes surging inflation and rising poverty. The country in June narrowly avoided bankruptcy after securing a $3 billion (€2.75 billion) International Monetary Fund loan.

The latest case against Mr Khan stems from allegations that he violated state secrecy laws when he waved a diplomatic cable at a public rally last year.

The cable, Mr Khan said at the time, showed that his removal from office was the result of a conspiracy involving the US, Mr Sharif and the army retaliating against him for his ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin. All three deny the claim. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023