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Imran Khan Faces New Accusations Amid Protests For Release From Prison

© AP Photo / K.M. ChaudarySupporter of former prime minister Imran Khan and political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) attend during an election campaign rally in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024.
Supporter of former prime minister Imran Khan and political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) attend during an election campaign rally in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. - Sputnik India, 1920, 04.05.2024
Imran Khan and his wife are both behind bars, but new corruption charges against them could add to their long sentences. The new development comes amid protests by PTI supporters demanding Khan's immediate release from prison.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder and former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, is facing a fresh investigation in the Toshakhana case, the allegations of misappropriation of gifts received from foreign dignitaries, which Khan allegedly profited from selling during his tenure as Prime Minister from 2018-22.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) of Pakistan has initiated a fresh inquiry into the case and has asked Khan's wife Bushra Bibi to appear before the bureau for investigation.
Imran Khan and Bushra Bibi were already facing two separate trials in connection with the Toshakhana cases, and were sentenced to 14 years in prison in one of the cases before the Islamabad High Court suspended their sentences in April.
The couple were also banned from holding public office for 10 years and fined 787 million Pakistani rupees ($2.8 million).
The Toshakhana case refers to a series of corruption charges against Khan for allegedly selling the millions of dollars worth of gifts he received from foreign governments while in office. Both Khan and Bibi had maintained their innocence when the charges were first brought before a court, and PTI lawyers said that Imran Khan and Bushra Bibi had faced yet another "kangaroo trial in which neither was given the right to a defence".

The PTI's official statement at the time said: "Like the cipher case, the Toshakhana case has no basis in any higher court. It's shameful how the law is completely disregarded and mocked in Pakistan".

In April, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended Khan's Toshakhana convictions, giving the PTI a sense that justice had been restored. However, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has reopened the investigation.

What is the Purpose of the New Investigation?

"Since the government of Imran Khan was taken down two years ago the control of the country went to the army. Currently the most powerful man in the country is the Chief of Army Staff, General Asim Munir, and nothing happens in Pakistan without his approval. It is fair to say that the army is overseeing all the important institutions of the country such as the judiciary, bureaucracy, police and NAB," a senior political analyst and former unit head of Engro Corporation, Dr. Shahid Rashid told Sputnik India.

"This new Toshakhana case against Imran Khan initiated by NAB is quite a ridiculous case because it relates to gifts that he received, but the high court had already acquitted Khan earlier last month in this case, so it makes little sense to renew it once again," Dr. Rashid added.

The analyst went on to say that the NAB chief is a retired army general who is likely to take his orders from the army, particularly the army chief.

"The purpose of this new investigation is to keep Imran Khan behind bars for as long as possible," according to Scotland based writer and political analyst, Parvez Salik.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Dr Rashid, who added that Imran Khan should be kept in jail "until he breaks and agrees to negotiate with the army on its terms".

"So far Khan has not given up and that gives hope to his followers who are still saying that the recent elections were unfair because Khan's party PTI was a clear winner. Now they are raising their voices for Khan's release from prison," the analyst said.

According to both analysts, the current situation surrounding Imran Khan may also be aimed at morally demoralising PTI supporters, as just earlier this week thousands of Pakistanis gathered at various railway stations across the country, with many boarding the Awam Express train, where they chanted slogans demanding Imran Khan's release from prison.
"However, if the public keeps seeing these fabricated cases against Imran Khan and the public is powerless to do anything about them, then eventually they might get disheartened and lose hope in the system of justice of the country. Maybe that is the aim here - to demoralize the public so that it stops standing up for Khan," Dr. Rashid stated.

NAB as a Political Power Tool?

Speaking about the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Parvez Salik said that it was established a decade ago by the previous army chief Parvez Musharaf.

"Every party has used it [NAB] to jail or harass their opponents, while continuing their own looting and corruption. It serves no useful purpose and should be dismantled. This power that NAB currently has should only rest with the Supreme Court but, unfortunately, it too is a political tool and is not independent," the writer explained.

Pakistani laborers unload a truck of wheat in a grain shop on the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan. - Sputnik India, 1920, 02.05.2024
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