Imran Khan’s party challenges election commission disqualification decision, calls for protests
Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, has been barred from standing for election and becoming an MP for the next five years. The election commission’s decision was rejected by his party, which called for street protests in response to what they say was an act of political bias.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) accused Khan of failing to properly report how his government handled the gifts he received while in office. He constituted “corrupt practices” which justified his disqualification from exercising public functions, the organization announced on Friday.
Senior officials of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party rejected the decision and said they would challenge it in court.
Fawad Chaudhry, who served as justice minister under Khan, called the decision a “a slap to 220 million” party supporters and claimed the verdict was “written by Nawaz Sharif and signed by his servants”, according to local news site Dawn.
He was referring to the former Pakistani Prime Minister, who is also the brother of incumbent Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Chaudhry said the “beginning of the revolution”.
Reports of protests and some street clashes between PTI supporters and police come from several cities, including the capital Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi. On the Lahore-Islamabad highway, people burned tires, according to videos shared on social media.
In the capital itself, police appeared to deploy tear gas to disperse protesters. Footage from the scene showed thick white clouds billowing in the streets, people fleeing.
The Pakistani government called the verdict a proper execution of justice and said Khan could be prosecuted for corruption. Justice Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar also accused the PTI leadership of inciting “freak” to attack Pakistani cities.
Khan was removed as prime minister in August in a vote of no confidence in parliament. He claimed it was a soft coup orchestrated by Washington to put a softer politician in charge of the country. Shehbaz Sharif and the US government have denied these allegations.
Embattled ex-Pakistani PM Khan speaks to RT (VIDEO)
The case investigated by the ECP related to four gifts from foreign countries, which Khan admitted to selling. In his official response to the commission last month, he insisted he had paid the Treasury for their value when he received them.
Some senior Pakistani government officials are legally required to declare all gifts, but are allowed to keep those below a certain value. The most expensive items have to go to a special office called Toshakhana, but in some cases the recipient can buy them back at around half their value.
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