Pakistan Ex-PM Imran Khan Granted Bail, But Release Uncertain

Desk Report

Published: 22 Dec 2023, 05:35 pm

Security officers escort Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan, as he appeared in Islamabad High Court, Islamabad, Pakistan May 12, 2023 || Photo: Collected

Security officers escort Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan, as he appeared in Islamabad High Court, Islamabad, Pakistan May 12, 2023 || Photo: Collected

´╗┐Pakistan's Supreme Court on Friday granted bail to former Prime Minister Imran Khan in a case related to an alleged leak of state secrets, possibly a huge win for his party ahead of national elections in February.

The 71-year-old former cricket star has been embroiled in a tangle of political and legal battles since he was ousted as prime minister in April 2022. He has not been seen in public since he was jailed for three years in August for unlawfully selling state gifts while in office from 2018 to 2022.

It was not immediately clear if or when Khan would be released from jail because of the number of arrest warrants issued against him, Salman Safdar, one of Khan's lawyers who represented him in court, told journalists after the hearing.

A three-member bench granted Khan and his deputy party leader, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, bail subject to surety bonds of one million Pakistani rupees ($3,600) each. Both were indicted earlier this month.

The state secrets charge is related to a classified cable sent to Islamabad by Pakistan's ambassador in Washington last year, which Khan is accused of making public. He denies the charge, saying the contents appeared in the media from other sources.

Despite Friday's bail, Khan remains disqualified from contesting national elections scheduled for Feb. 8 by virtue of the corruption conviction, which a high court refused to suspend on Thursday. He still plans on filing his nomination papers ahead of a Sunday deadline, his party said.

Even if the charismatic Khan were unable to contest the election, his release would be a major shot in the arm for his party as it would enable him to lead its campaign in the lead-up to the polls.

Khan is widely believed to be the country's most popular leader and won the last general elections in 2018.

He says he is being targeted by the powerful military, which wants to keep him out of the polls. The military denies the charge.

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