KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – Pakistan’s election body has rejected former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s nomination to contest the 2024 national elections in two constituencies, officials and his party’s media team said on Saturday.
The 71-year-old former cricket star has been embroiled in a tangle of political and legal battles since he was ousted as prime minister in April 2022. He has not been seen in public since he was jailed for three years in August for unlawfully selling state gifts while in office from 2018 to 2022.
Khan has been disqualified from contesting the national elections scheduled for Feb. 8 because of the corruption conviction, but he nevertheless filed nomination papers for the elections on Friday, his media team said.
In a list of rejected candidates from Lahore, the Election Commission of Pakistan said Khan’s nomination was rejected because he was not a registered voter of the constituency and because he is “convicted by the court of law and has been disqualified”.
His media team said the commission had also rejected his nomination to contest the elections from his hometown, Mianwali.
Khan, who is widely seen as the country’s most popular leader, says he is being targeted by the powerful military, which wants to keep him out of the polls. The military denies this.
Last week, a high court refused to suspend Khan’s disqualification from contesting the elections.
In addition to Khan, the election commission has also rejected nomination papers submitted by other senior party members, including Shah Mehmood Qureshi, vice chairman of Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI).
Meanwhile, the election commission accepted former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s nomination from two constituencies for the 2024 elections, weeks after a court overturned two graft convictions.
But Sharif still needs a life ban on holding any public office to be removed to qualify to stand, so it was not immediately clear how his nomination was accepted. A hearing on that ban will be held in January.
Sharif was banned from running in elections in 2017 by the Supreme Court, which declared him dishonest for not disclosing income from a company owned by his son.
Sharif, who arrived back home in October from four years of self-imposed exile in Britain, is bidding for a fourth premiership in the February elections. His biggest challenge will be to wrest back his support base from Khan.
(Reporting by Mubasher Bukhari in Lahore and Ariba Shahid in Karachi; Editing by William Maclean, Helen Popper and Frances Kerry)