A Pakistani appeals court has suspended the corruption conviction and three-year prison term of Imran Khan in a legal victory for the hugely popular embattled former prime minister, his lawyers and court officials said.
Although he will face a retrial in due course, the ruling will enable Khan, 70, to contest the upcoming parliamentary elections. Khan has denied the charges, insisting he did not violate any rules.
The Islamabad High Court also granted bail for Khan, but it was not immediately clear if he will be released as he also faces a multitude of other charges brought since his ouster through a no-confidence vote in the parliament in April 2022.
Khan lawyer Shoaib Shaheen said the Islamabad High Court issued a brief verbal order and a written ruling will be issued later.
Khan was convicted and sentenced earlier this month by a court that found him guilty of concealing assets after selling state gifts he received while in office.
“Imran Khan is again entitled to lead his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party after today's court order,” Babar Awan, another senior attorney for Khan, told reporters after the announcement of the decision.
Earlier this month, Pakistan’s Election Commission had disqualified Khan from running for office for five years. Under Pakistan’s laws, no convicted person is eligible to lead a party, run in elections, or hold public office.
Since his ouster, Khan has said that his removal was a conspiracy by the United States, his successor Shehbaz Sharif and the Pakistani military — accusations that they all deny.
Sharif stepped down this month after the parliament’s term ended. Meanwhile, Pakistan is facing deepening economic and political turmoil.
The upcoming vote has been complicated by an announcement by the election oversight body that elections must be delayed for at least three to four months because it needs more time to redraw constituencies to reflect the recently held census.
Under the constitution, a vote is to be held in October or November. Until then, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar is running the day-to-day affairs. Kakar has said that he will ensure the vote is held in a free, fair and transparent manner.