Top Pakistani court dismisses graft case against Imran Khan

Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) political party, gestures as he addresses members of the media, after Pakistan's Supreme Court dismissed a petition to disqualify him from parliament for not declaring assets, outside Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan December 15, 2017. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro
Updated 16 December 2017
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Top Pakistani court dismisses graft case against Imran Khan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Supreme Court dismissed a graft case against cricketer-turned-opposition leader Imran Khan Friday, ensuring he will contest a general election due next year, just months after the same body ousted ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Khan had faced being disqualified from holding political office over charges including unreported assets, namely the funds he used to buy a scenic, sprawling property in the Bani Gala hills on the outskirts of the capital Islamabad.
He has dismissed the claims as a political vendetta, saying he used money earned from his career as one of Pakistan’s most famous World Cup cricketers to buy the land and that he has the documentation to prove it.
“No omission or dishonesty can be attributed to him. This petition has no merits and is dismissed accordingly,” Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar said, reading from the judgment to a packed courtroom.
Shortly after the judgment Khan held a press conference in Karachi where he told reporters “Pakistan’s highest court has exonerated me.”
“The taxpayers and those who earn their money through fair means and pay taxes should not be compared with the robbers and thieves,” Khan added.
Pakistan has been roiled by military coups and instability for much of its 70-year history, and the general election due in 2018 will only be its second ever democratic transition.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which already holds northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, hopes to capitalize on Sharif’s ousting and the disarray of his ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to gain seats. Few observers of Pakistan’s volatile politics are willing to predict with any certainty who will take the election, however.
Sharif swiftly installed party loyalist Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as prime minister after the court sacked him in late July following a corruption investigation spurred by the Panama Papers leak.
But Abbasi is widely seen as a placeholder as Sharif himself has refused to relinquish leadership of the party, despite being barred from contesting elections, leaving the PML-N floundering.
Its weakness was brutally exposed last month when it was forced to capitulate to the demands of small and previously unknown militant group that had held a weeks-long sit-in in the capital to demand the resignation of the federal law minister over claims linked to blasphemy.


Pakistan's leading political party faces jolt

Updated 51 min 32 sec ago
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Pakistan's leading political party faces jolt

  • Former PM Nawaz Sharif may not be able to spearhead PML-N's election campaign
  • The three-time premier is a crowd-puller and could help the beleaguered PML-N, but only “if he returns to Pakistan and leads the election campaign,” political analyst Tahir Malik told Arab News on Sunday

ISLAMABAD: The electoral success of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) hangs in the balance as its most charismatic leader, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is outside the country and may not lead his party’s campaign ahead of the July 25 polls, analysts say.
“If Sharif doesn’t return from London to Pakistan by next week, his party may face huge losses in the upcoming elections,” political analyst Tahir Malik told Arab News on Sunday.
The three-time premier is a crowd-puller and could help the beleaguered PML-N, but only “if he returns to Pakistan and leads the election campaign,” Malik said.
Sharif is in London visiting his wife Begum Kalsoom Nawaz, who has been on a ventilator since June 14 and has been undergoing treatment for throat cancer since August 2017.
“Do you think it is appropriate for me to return to Pakistan when Begum Kalsoom is fighting for life?” Sharif asked on Saturday.
He said he had planned a four-day trip to London, but is now unsure about returning to Pakistan due to her health. Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz have been in the UK since June 15.
“The Sharif family is passing through a difficult time, and the situation could adversely impact their party’s electoral prospects,” Malik said.
An accountability court hearing three separate corruption references against Sharif, Nawaz and others is scheduled to conclude the trial by July 9, as per the Supreme Court’s instructions.
In July 2017, the Supreme Court disqualified Sharif from holding the prime minister’s office, and directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file corruption references against him and his family members.
“Even after being disqualified from holding any public office, Sharif still enjoys public support,” political analyst Rasul Bukhsh Rais told Arab News.
But if the accountability court convicts Sharif in the graft cases before the elections, this would demoralize his party and PML-N voters, Rais said.
His younger brother, who has become the party’s president after Sharif’s disqualification, “may not be able to run an effective election campaign,” Rais added.
Sen. Mushahidullah Khan, the PML-N’s information secretary, said Sharif and his daughter will return to Pakistan to lead the party’s election campaign once his wife’s health improves.
“Our detractors will be disappointed. The PML-N will win a clear majority in the elections under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif,” Khan told Arab News.