ISLAMABAD (HPD) — Pakistan’s Electoral Commission on Friday banned former Prime Minister Imran Khan from holding public office for five years, accusing him of illegally selling state gifts and concealing assets, authorities said. The move is likely to aggravate continuing political instability in the impoverished nation.
The electoral body released its long-awaited verdict in the capital, Islamabad, Fawad Chaudhry told reporters, condemning the decision and urging Khan’s supporters to protest publicly.
According to authorities and legal experts, the ruling will cause Khan to lose his seat in the National Assembly. Balkh Ser Khosa, a prominent lawyer, explained that the commission disqualified Khan from holding public office because he illegally sold state gifts given to him by other countries when he was in power. He said Khan also hid the profits he made from those sales from tax authorities.
Friday’s decision comes months after Parliament removed Khan from office via a no-confidence motion.
Furious at Khan’s disqualification, his party, Tehreek-e-Insaf, urged their supporters to take to the streets to peacefully condemn the decision.
Dozens of Khan supporters were seen chanting slogans against the government and authorities at the Election Commission on Friday. Hundreds of people blocked a key highway in the northwestern city of Peshawar, disrupting traffic. Khan’s supporters also held small demonstrations in the country’s main cities.
Hundreds of Khan’s supporters briefly clashed with police in the city of Rawalpindi. However, the protesters dispersed as police waved batons and fired tear gas canisters, according to local media. The government deployed additional security forces in Islamabad to maintain order.
Justice Minister Azam Nazir Tarar confirmed that the commission found Khan guilty as charged. Tarar said that Khan has been barred from holding public office for five years.
The decision was made public days before Khan announced his long-awaited march to Islamabad to force Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s government to call early elections.
Sharif’s ruling coalition asked the Election Commission to take action against Khan.
Since his ouster, Khan has claimed his government was overthrown by Sharif as part of a US plot, but both Sharif and Washington deny the allegation.