Pakistan ex-PM Imran Khan granted bail but remains jailed

22 Dec 2023 08:32pm
A poster of Pakistan's ex-prime minister Imran Khan is seen through cables in Lahore on Dec18, 2023. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP)
A poster of Pakistan's ex-prime minister Imran Khan is seen through cables in Lahore on Dec18, 2023. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP)

ISLAMABAD - A Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan was granted bail Friday in a case alleging he leaked state secrets, lawyers said, but remained jailed on other charges with an election due in February.

Khan -- detained since August -- alleges the powerful military is colluding with dynastic parties which have long dominated Pakistan to crush his populist movement and prevent him standing for office.

The 71-year-old has been pummelled by a barrage of legal cases since being ousted in April 2022 after falling out with the top brass, and has twice been jailed.

"The case has completely collapsed, and Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi have finally been granted bail," lawyer Salman Safdar told reporters outside court, referring to Khan's former foreign minister who is being held over the same case.

Prosecutors allege the pair mishandled a diplomatic cable sent by Pakistan's ambassador to the United States.

Prosecution for the alleged offence took place inside jail and the trial began in private, until a legal challenge forced the court to restart proceedings with observers present.

Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party said he remains incarcerated over numerous separate graft cases, with scant chance he will leave prison to contest elections due February 8.

"The prospect of him obtaining relief in the near future appears to be very slim," party lawyer Khalid Yousaf Chaudry told AFP.

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The fate of politicians in Pakistan has historically riden on their relationship to the military establishment, which has directly ruled the country on several occasions.

Hugely-popular Khan rose to power in 2018 with the backing of the army. But when he was ousted by a parliamentary no-confidence vote he claimed generals had conspired with Washington to end his term.

He publically touted diplomatic documents as supposed evidence for his claims.

Prosecution for leaking the classified communique could see him jailed for up to 14 years or even handed the death penalty, according to his lawyers.

In the months after he was ousted, Khan was able to draw vast crowds at rallies, where he waged an unprecedented campaign of defiance against the military.

He was briefly arrested for the first time in May sparking days of deadly unrest resulting in a huge crackdown on PTI which saw most senior figures arrested, defect or driven underground. - AFP