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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Imran Khan: Pakistan's former Prime Minister jailed for 10 years for leaking state secrets

Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan and one of his party deputies have each been sentenced to 10 years in prison, after being found guilty of revealing official secrets.

The case pertains to allegations Khan had made public contents of a secret cable, sent by the country's ambassador in Washington to the government in Islamabad.

Khan's party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), said both he and former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi were sentenced to 10 years each by a special court on Tuesday.

It called it a "sham case" and said the party would challenge the decision.

"We don't accept this illegal decision," Khan's lawyer Naeem Panjutha posted on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

The verdict came as another blow to Khan, a former cricket star turned politician, who was ousted through a no-confidence vote in Parliament in April 2022 and is currently serving a three-year prison sentence in a graft case.

In the secrets case, Khan is alleged to have waved a confidential document — a classified cable — at a rally after he was toppled.

The document — dubbed Cipher — has not been made public by either the government or Khan’s lawyers but was apparently diplomatic correspondence between the Pakistani ambassador to Washington and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad.

During the speech, Khan claiming the document was proof he was being threatened and that his ouster was a US conspiracy, allegedly executed by the military and the government in Pakistan. Washington and Pakistani officials have denied the claim.

Meanwhile Khan has maintained his innocence and says he did not disclose the exact contents of the cable.

Political analyst Syed Muhammad Ali said the latest verdict was expected. The two “indeed damaged Pakistan’s diplomatic ties with the United States, and they also embarrassed the then-Pakistani Ambassador Asad Majeed to the United States,” he said.

The Cipher case is one of more than 150 cases pending against Khan. Other charges range from contempt of court to terrorism and inciting violence.

The latest verdict comes ahead of the February 8 parliamentary elections in Pakistan — a vote that Khan is barred from running in because of his previous criminal conviction.

Although he will not be on the ballot for the Febuary election, Khan remains a potent political force because of his grassroots following and anti-establishment rhetoric.

He says the legal cases against him were a plot to sideline him ahead of the vote.

Violent demonstrations have erupted across Pakistan since Khan's arrest in May 2023. Authorities have cracked down on his supporters and party since then.

Pakistan's independent human rights commission has said there is little chance of a free and fair parliamentary election next month because of "pre-poll rigging." It also expressed concern about authorities rejecting the candidacies of Khan and senior figures from his party.

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