Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and the top leader of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, have been jailed for 10 years in a case where they were accused of disclosing state secrets.
The conviction in the so-called figure affair comes less than two weeks before the general election. Khan, who is already serving a three-year prison sentence in a corruption case, is barred from running in the February 8 elections.
A spokesperson for Khan’s PTI party said the two leaders had been charged under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act in a closed-door trial, adding that the decision would be “contested”.
Here’s what we know about the case:
What is the case for encryption?
Khan is accused of making public a classified cable – a cipher or cipher – sent to Islamabad by Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington in 2022. Khan and Qureshi were indicted by a Pakistani court on October 23, 2023.
Immediately after his removal as prime minister in April 2022, Khan said the United States had contributed to his removal. Washington and the Pakistani army denied his accusations. Khan then toned down his rhetoric against the United States.
But an American media outlet, The Intercept, published in August 2023 what it claims to be a “figure” suggesting that the American administration wanted remove Khan power. Khan maintains that his ouster in April 2022 was orchestrated by the country’s powerful military and his political opponents.
The Intercept published details of a conversation between Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, Asad Majeed Khan, and Donald Lu, assistant secretary of state at the U.S. Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs , March 7, 2022.
The conversation took place less than two weeks after Khan’s visit to Moscow, on the day Russia invaded Ukraine. During the exchange, Lu raised concerns over Khan’s visit to Russia and Pakistan’s neutral stance on the Ukraine war.
“I think if a vote of no confidence against the prime minister succeeds, all will be forgiven in Washington,” Lu reportedly told Asad Majeed Khan, who sent details of the conversation to Islamabad via a secret diplomatic cable.
Imran Khan denied the accusation and said the content appeared in the media from other sources.
Does Khan have the right to appeal?
Authorities say Khan and Qureshi have the right to appeal Tuesday’s ruling in the case.
The PTI said it would contest it. “We do not accept this illegal decision,” Khan’s lawyer Naeem Panjutha said on social media platform X.
Khan’s aide, Zulfikar Bukhari, told Reuters the legal team had had no chance to represent him or cross-examine witnesses, adding that the proceedings took place in prison.
Khan’s legal team had hoped to have him released from prison, where he has been held since August last year, but the latest conviction means that is unlikely, even if the charges are contested in a higher court.
What are the other accusations against Khan?
The Cypher case is one of more than 150 pending cases against Khan, a former cricket star. Other charges range from contempt of court to “terrorism” and inciting violence.
Khan, 71, was convicted in August 2023 by a magistrate court for failing to declare assets he earned from selling gifts he received from foreign governments and leaders during his tenure as Prime Minister from 2018 to 2022. This was called the Toshakhana affair.
The sentence was later suspended, but Khan remains behind bars in connection with other cases. He said he purchased the items legally. Government officials said Khan’s aides sold the gifts in Dubai.
Khan was previously arrested for four days in May 2023, accused of receiving land as a bribe through the Al-Qadir Trust – a charitable foundation established by Khan’s third wife, Bushra Bibi and himself in 2018, while he was still in office. .
Pakistani authorities accused Khan and his wife of receiving the land, worth up to 7 billion rupees ($25 million), from a real estate developer.
Khan’s aides have previously said the land was donated to the trust for charitable purposes. The real estate developer has also denied any wrongdoing.
Will Khan be on the electoral roll for the February elections?
The Toshakhana case led to a decision by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) which Khan disqualified to hold public office for five years.
Additionally, the ECP also banned its party, the PTI, from using its election symbol on the ballot.
Although Khan is not on the electoral roll for the February elections, he remains a powerful political force due to his popular support and anti-establishment rhetoric. He claims the legal action against him was a plot to sideline him before the vote.