Imran Khan, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan and leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party is facing a challenging political future. He recently spent a night in a high-security prison after being handed a three-year jail sentence over corruption allegations. This conviction not only threatens his immediate political involvement but also bars him from politics for five years.
The charges against Khan revolve around allegations of illegally selling state gifts for profit, totaling 140 million Pakistani rupees. Khan has consistently denied any wrongdoing, asserting that he legally purchased the gifts from a government-owned treasure house called Toshakhana. His legal team contends that he was not given a fair trial and that the case is politically motivated.
Khan’s popularity among his supporters remains evident. His Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party is the largest in the country, boasting an approval rating of around 70 percent according to poll surveys. However, the recent conviction and potential disqualification from politics could hinder his ability to contest in the upcoming general elections, which are due to take place by mid-November. In Pakistan, anyone convicted of a criminal offense is disqualified from participating in elections. The dissolution of parliament is also expected in the coming weeks.
Khan’s PTI party has lodged an appeal in higher courts against the conviction. His legal team believes that the verdict might be suspended and Khan could be released early pending the appeal process.
Imran Khan’s rise to popularity stemmed from his promise to tackle corruption and bring about change in the political landscape. He emerged as a fresh face among established political figures, capturing the support of young voters disillusioned with the existing order. His alignment with conservative Islam and anti-Western rhetoric resonated with influential religious conservatives. Additionally, his philanthropic efforts, including founding a cancer center and implementing poverty-alleviation programs, earned him praise.
Despite his achievements, Khan’s political journey has been marked by ups and downs. He became prime minister in 2018 with the support of the military establishment, but he was later removed from power through a no-confidence motion. His accusations of a US-backed conspiracy (cipher) and his defiance against the establishment led to a surge in popularity. However, his confrontational stance also brought him into conflict with the military, further complicating his political trajectory.
Khan’s political career began in 1996 when he founded the PTI, marking a transition from his successful cricket career. He successfully challenged long-standing political dynasties and vowed to address corruption and strengthen the rule of law.