Pakistan’s election commission on Tuesday disqualified Imran Khan from holding public office for five years, days after he was arrested on corruption charges, in the latest setback for the embattled former prime minister.
Khan, who denies the charges, will no longer be a member of Parliament, the election commission said, citing his conviction and three-year jail sentence handed down Saturday for concealing assets from the sale of state gifts during his time in office. The announcement came ahead of the expected dissolution of Parliament by the Pakistani government, which would pave the way for national elections, though there is uncertainty over when they might be held.
Khan, a former cricket star, has appealed his conviction at a high court in Islamabad, the Associated Press reported, and the case is likely to be heard on Wednesday.
Calling the election commission’s move to bar him “premature,” Sayed Bukhari, an adviser to Khan, tweeted that the “government is trying to eliminate Khan from the political landscape of Pakistan.”
The intent, Bukhari said, was to bog him down with “frivolous” cases if and when fresh elections are held.
The rapidly moving political developments highlight Pakistan’s continued instability since Khan’s ouster in April last year, after he clashed with the country’s powerful military over appointments and criticism of his handling of economic issues.
But a defiant Khan went on to garner mass public support through large rallies. In November, Khan was shot in the foot during one such march, and in recent months key aides and members of his party have quit or been jailed under an intensifying crackdown.
Khan has said he is under attack because of his popularity. In an interview with the BBC a day before his arrest, he said that his party would win in elections. “And because of that, they’re dismantling our democracy.”
He is not the first former prime minister to face such disqualification. In 2018, Nawaz Sharif was banned from electoral politics for life after being found guilty following a corruption scandal.