Islamabad: Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan was barred from holding public office after the top election tribunal on Friday found him guilty of unlawfully selling gifts from foreign dignitaries and heads of state, a lawyer and a minister said.
The 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician was accused of misusing his 2018-2022 premiership to purchase and sell gifts in state possession that were received during visits abroad and worth more than 140 million Pakistani rupees ($635,000).
Khan has denied the charges.
The tribunal was to give a detailed ruling later in the day saying how long the former premier would be barred for.
“Khan has been disqualified on charges of being involved in corrupt practices,” Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar told a news conference.
Under Pakistani law, a legislator found guilty of corruption or misuse of public office can be barred for up to five years.
Faisal Chaudhry, a lawyer in Khan’s team, told Reuters the Election Commission tribunal had no jurisdiction in the matter and that a challenge would be filed in a high court.
“It’s an illegal and unconstitutional order,” he said.
Khan’s party spokesman Fawad Chaudhry urged supporters to come out on the streets to “topple” the government.
Supporters gathered in different cities, blocking roads and streets, but there were no reports of violence, officials said.
The ruling coalition that took over from Khan after his ouster in a confidence vote earlier this year had filed the case before the election commission.
“It is proved now that he is a certified thief,” Khan’s opponent Maryam Nawaz, from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N), told reporters in London in recorded comments telecast by local Geo News TV.
The gifts included expensive watches given by a royal family, according to government officials, who have alleged previously that Khan’s aides sold them in Dubai.
The government said the former premier also did not declare the source of income used to purchase costly gifts which a prime minister or his staff can buy via auction at prescribed rates.
“Imran Khan not only lied to the election commission by not declaring his accurate assets and his sources of income, he also lied to the people of Pakistan,” Tarar said, terming the sale of watches immoral and a diplomatic embarrassment.
“I mean you imagine that a friend from a brotherly royal family gives you a gift and you sell it.” –Reuters
($1 = 220.3000 Pakistani rupees)
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