Pakistan’s Imran Khan still barred from vote after conviction appeal fails -lawyer

KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) -Pakistani former prime minister Imran Khan remains disqualified from contesting elections after a court rejected his plea to suspend an earlier conviction on Thursday, his lawyer said.

The decision came a day before the deadline to submit nomination papers for elections for provincial and national assemblies that are scheduled for Feb. 8.

Khan, a 70-year-old former international cricket star, has been at the centre of a political crisis since he was ousted in a parliamentary no-confidence vote in April 2022.

He was imprisoned on Aug. 5 after being sentenced to three years’ jail on charges of unlawfully selling state gifts during his 2018-22 tenure as prime minister. He denies any wrongdoing and says the charges are politically motivated.

Khan was seeking to overturn that conviction, which has barred him from contesting elections for five years.

“Imran Khan’s request to suspend the decision in the Tosha Khana criminal case was rejected so that disqualification would remain (in place),” Khan’s lawyer and spokesman on legal affairs, Naeem Haider Panjutha, said on X.

In another post, he said that Khan’s party Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), would file a challenge of the decision in the Supreme Court on Friday.

In addition to other cases, Khan pleaded not guilty on Dec. 13 to charges of leaking state secrets under an indictment that dealt a further blow to his chances of running again for election.

The charges are related to a classified cable sent to Islamabad by Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington last year, which Khan is accused of making public.

PTI’s main election opponent in February will be former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s party.

(Reporting by Ariba Shahid in Karachi; editing by Alison Williams and Mark Heinrich)