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Imran Khan’s legal woes part of ‘much larger campaign of repression’: UN report

Security officers escort former prime minister Imran Khan, as he appeared in Islamabad High Court, Islamabad, May 12, 2023. — Reuters
  • UN report says “appropriate remedy would be Imran’s release”.
  • “Ex-PM’s detention arbitrary and in violation of international law”
  • Report points out the “widespread fraud on election day [Feb 8]”.

WASHINGTON: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan’s detention is arbitrary and in violation of international law, a UN human rights working group said in an opinion issued on Monday, adding that the jailed politician should be “released immediately”.

The Geneva-based UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said that the “appropriate remedy would be to release Mr Khan immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law”.

The UN working group said that the legal woes for the former prime minister were part of a “much larger campaign of repression” against him and his party. 

It pointed out the arrests of various PTI leaders and the alleged custodial torture inflicted upon them as well as restriction on holding election rallies in the lead up to February 8 general polls. 

Moreover, it also alleged the “widespread fraud on election day, stealing dozens of parliamentary seats”.

The Pakistani embassy in Washington had no immediate comment. Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) denies that the elections were rigged.

The cricketer-turned-politician, who came to power in 2018, was removed from the office of the prime minister in April 2022 in a vote of no-confidence led by the then united opposition mainly comprising the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) — also called the former Pakistan Democratic Movement (PMD).

The alliance then formed a coalition government to complete the remaining term of the National Assembly. 

Imran has been facing a slew of charges ranging from corruption to terrorism since his removal as the premier.

The PTI founder has been in jail since last August and was convicted in some cases ahead of a nationwide election earlier this year. He is also fighting dozens of other cases which are continuing. 

On August 5 last year, a trial court in Islamabad had convicted the PTI founder in a Toshakhana case filed by the ECP and handed him three-year imprisonment. The conviction had him disqualified for five years by the electoral body later, but the Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended the sentence. 

The deposed prime minister and his party claim that the charges against him were “politically motivated” to thwart his return to power in this year’s elections. 

He alleged the US played a role in his ousting by colluding with his political rivals. Both deny the accusations.

In recent months, the courts have suspended Khan’s jail sentences in two cases related to illegal acquisition and sale of state gifts, and also overturned his conviction on charges of leaking state secrets in the cipher case.

However, he has remained in behind the bars due to conviction in the iddat case in which a trial court ruled that his 2018 marriage was unlawful. Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi had sought suspension of the sentences in this case but the trial court last month rejected the pleas, blocking the 71-year-old politician’s release. 

He also faces a trial under anti-terrorism charges in connection with violence in May last year. 

The host of legal cases were brought against the PTI founding chairman after he was ousted, one of which also disqualified him as a candidate in February’s election.

Despite not running himself, candidates backed by the PTI secured the highest number of seats, but the PML-N and the PPP together achieved the number to form a coalition government.

The US, Britain and the European Union have expressed concern about  the reported irregularities in the elections and urged a probe while United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern about violence and the suspension of mobile communications services during the elections.

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