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Pakistani police arrested former Prime Minister Imran Khan this week, a move that could prevent the main opposition leader from participating in this year’s elections and ban him from politics, the Washington Post reported.
Khan’s arrest in the city of Lahore came after a court sentenced him to three years in prison on corruption charges over allegations that he sold state gifts from foreign dignitaries.
The ruling could prevent him from running in upcoming polls expected to take place in November.
Khan denied the accusations and urged his supporters to protest the court’s decision.
But his detention didn’t appear to encourage his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party to take to the streets, a major departure from the mass demonstrations that flared up across the country following his first arrest on separate corruption charges earlier this year.
In that case, Pakistan’s Supreme Court intervened and declared his arrest unlawful.
The detention also comes days ahead of an expected government decision to dissolve parliament to prepare for this year’s polls.
The former cricket star-turned-politician became Pakistan’s prime minister in 2018 but was ousted in April 2022 following a no-confidence vote in parliament. Since then, he has launched large-scale protests against the new government and clashed with Pakistan’s powerful military.
But more than a year later, his PTI party has become a shadow of its former self with many of its leaders going into hiding amid pressure from the military.
Still, analysts noted that Khan’s detention could also challenge civilian and military leaders as Pakistan grapples with an economic crisis and a series of recent terrorist attacks.
If he manages to participate in the elections despite his imprisonment, his populist appeal could boost his chances in the upcoming vote. Meanwhile, Khan’s allies believe that voters might also get frustrated if authorities postpone the election to next year.