(CTN News) – Ex-prime minister Imran Khan of Pakistan is out on bond after a trial found him not guilty of leaking state secrets, but he is still facing additional allegations that will keep him in prison until the general election in February.
Although the Supreme Court granted Imran Khan bail on Friday, the conditions for his release remain unclear; he is currently serving a three-year term for corruption and is also facing additional allegations.
Imran Khan, who has been in detention since August, claims that his political party is being crushed by the powerful military and dynastic parties that have traditionally controlled Pakistan in an effort to stop him from running for office.
After a falling out with the top brass led to his removal from office in April 2022, the 71-year-old has been hit hard by a slew of legal matters and has spent time in jail twice.
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Salman Safdar, who is representing Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, said to reporters outside the court that the case has “completely collapsed” and that both men have been given bail. Qureshi is Khan’s former foreign minister, and both men are being arrested in the same case.
The two officials are facing accusations that they tampered with a cypher, a type of diplomatic communication that was transmitted by the Pakistani ambassador to the US.
Both have vehemently refuted the accusation, arguing that the cable proved a plot to depose his government in 2022, following his visit to Moscow immediately before Russia invaded Ukraine, by the Pakistani military and the US government.
The military of both Pakistan and the United States have rejected the allegations.
Before a legal challenge prompted the court to resume open hearings with spectators and media present, the Cypher case had a private trial inside the jail.
In its brief judgment on Friday, the Supreme Court stated that “there are no reasonable grounds for believing” that Khan committed an offence under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a potential 14-year prison term or the death penalty.
“The learned trial court is to finally decide whether there are sufficient grounds for further inquiry into their guilt of said offence,” the top court added.
According to Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, he is still behind bars on multiple corruption charges and there’s little hope he’ll be released in time for the February 8 elections.
“The likelihood of him receiving relief in the near future seems to be extremely low,” party lawyer Khalid Yousaf Chaudry told the AFP news agency.
Politicians in Pakistan have always been accountable to their ties to the country’s military establishment, which has exercised direct power over the nation on multiple times.
The general election in Pakistan is set for February 8, 2024.
Following his conviction in a case involving the illegal acquisition and sale of foreign gifts he acquired while prime minister, Imran Khan was disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for five years in August.
Imran Khan sought a reversal of his disqualification from the Islamabad High Court. Unfortunately, he will not be able to run in the next election after the top court turned down his case on Thursday.
The political wunderkind’s legal team is reportedly preparing to petition the Supreme Court to grant Khan the right to run for office.