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Imran Khan's 10-Year Prison Term Deepens Pakistan's Political Divide

© AP Photo / W.K. YousafzaiFormer Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, center, arrives to appear at a Supreme Court in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, July 24, 2023.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, center, arrives to appear at a Supreme Court in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, July 24, 2023. - Sputnik India, 1920, 30.01.2024
The sentencing of ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan to 10 years behind bars, on charges of revealing state secrets, has triggered an outcry among his supporters and raised concerns about the fairness of the upcoming elections.
Khan, who was ousted from power in 2022, has accused the current government and the military of conspiring against him and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). He alleges that the cases against him are politically motivated, and are aimed at barring him from participating in the upcoming polls on February 8.
A Pakistan court has also sentenced Khan's close aide, former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, to 10 years behind bars in the case related to the leaked state secrets.
Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari, a spokesperson for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, told the media outside the courts that PTI will challenge the court’s decision. "This was pretty much a writing on the wall," he said, adding that the trial against Khan was held in an "unlawful manner."
In an interview with Sputnik India, Lahore-based media personality, CEO of Evolve PR, Anusheh Asad said, "The shameful 'anti-justice' trial and its consequent sentence is a continuation of their (the establishment's) tactics that have been unfolding blatantly in front of the nation’s eyes since last year. We as a nation do not accept this sentence."

The Long Con

Sputnik India spoke with Dr. Shahid Rashid, a former unit manager at Engro Corporation and political analyst, who said that this decision is just one piece that's part of the broader agenda by the establishment.

"Another mockery or better to say, murder of the judicial system of Pakistan. [The] system has become a joke in this country. They are hoping that PTI supporters will get angry and come out on the streets, then they will do another crackdown on the party and the polling agents from PTI will get arrested,” the analyst said.

He further said that this court's ruling of a 10-year sentence is not sustainable and if it is not cleared in Pakistan's High Court it will be cleared in the Supreme Court.

"The establishment knows that this is not a sustainable ruling, but it was important to do it now, so close to the elections, as it is a part of a bigger plan - to arrest active workers of PTI and possibly even the candidates may be arrested on the pretense of this, if there is unrest," Dr. Rashid said.

Nevertheless, some say that Khan's sentencing is a major setback for the PTI, which was hoping to capitalise on his popularity and anti-establishment rhetoric.
In this cipher case, the court established under the Official Secrets Act that Khan was guilty of misusing the confidential cable sent by a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States.
The court conducted the trial in a prison in Rawalpindi, where Khan and Qureshi are being held, but it did not allow any media or public access to the proceedings, and supposedly also rejected the defence's request to cross-examine the prosecution's witnesses and experts.
Imran Khan's sister Begum Khanum told the media outside the courthouse that it was a "very painful day for Pakistan".
"We only got five minutes for cross examination in the court. This is such an important case and this is how it was handled? If they cannot give us justice, we will get justice ourselves," Begum Khanum said.
© Photo : Social MediaImran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi Sentenced to 10-Year Imprisonment in Cypher Case
Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi Sentenced to 10-Year Imprisonment in Cypher Case - Sputnik India, 1920, 30.01.2024
Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi Sentenced to 10-Year Imprisonment in Cypher Case

Pakistanis Want to Cast Their Vote

Pakistani businessman and PTI supporter, Arsalan Khan, told Sputnik India that the PTI, despite losing its leader, is still a formidable force and has vowed to continue its struggle for democracy and justice.

"The ruling party and its allies, despite having the backing of the establishment, are facing a backlash from the public and the opposition. These opposition parties, despite having their own differences and challenges, are trying to form a united front against PTI with the military, but the people of Pakistan are waiting for their chance to cast their vote and decide their fate," Khan explained.

The cipher case is one of several legal cases that Khan has faced since his removal from power.
In May 2023, he was arrested and convicted of corruption in the Toshakhana case.
Khan's supporters have denounced these cases as part of a witch-hunt against him and his party.

In a comment to Sputnik India, Scotland based writer and political observer, Pervez Salik, said, "It is clear that the army wants Imran out of the way so that Nawaz can win the upcoming elections."

Over the past few months, PTI and its supporters have accused the military of engineering Khan’s downfall and manipulating the judiciary and the election commission to favour the ruling party and its allies.
A PTI supporter who has asked to remain anonymous told Sputnik that there are elements within the military that are trying to suppress the voice of the people and the opposition, especially in the restive provinces of Balochistan and KPK, where Khan's PTI has a strong base.
The government and the military have denied these allegations and maintained that they respect the constitution and the rule of law.
However, the sentencing of Khan and Qureshi has added to the uncertainty and polarisation in Pakistan’s political landscape, which is already marred by violence, instability, and economic woes.
Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan at his residence, in Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023.  - Sputnik India, 1920, 16.01.2024
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