A Pakistani court has suspended former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s three-year jail sentence, ordering his release on bail.
A two-judge bench of the Islamabad High Court led by Justice Aamer Farooq announced the short order today.
Khan was sentenced by a trial court in Islamabad earlier this month for concealing details of foreign gifts he received during his nearly four-year premiership.
Consequently, he was barred from holding public office for five years by the election commission.
The cricketer-turned-politician, who is facing a number of cases, was ousted as PM through a no-trust vote in April 2022. He is currently incarcerated in the northwestern Attock city.
Despite the suspension of the sentence and grant of bail, there are slim chances of Khan’s release from jail as he is already on judicial remand on charges of exposing official secrets. Prison authorities have been asked to keep the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief in a “judicial lockup” and produce him before a special court on Wednesday.
The case is related to diplomatic communication between Washington and Islamabad, which Khan says was part of a U.S. conspiracy to topple his government.
Legal experts say the ex-premier’s conviction and his subsequent disqualification will remain in effect until the trial court’s judgment is set aside.
Raja Khalid, a senior lawyer, told Anadolu Agency that the suspension of Khan’s conviction is not “unusual,” but he still stands disqualified for contesting the election, which is due later this year but is likely to be delayed for several months.
Senator Ali Zafar, one of Khan’s lawyers, however, argued the ex-prime minister had been reinstated as the party chairman after the verdict.
Shoaib Shaheen, another member of Khan’s legal team, called the verdict a “victory of justice.”
Meanwhile, former Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has slammed the Islamabad court’s order, saying Khan’s conviction was only “suspended” and not “terminated.”
“When everyone knows what the decision will be before it is announced, it should be a matter of concern for the justice system. If a clear message is delivered by a higher court, what other choice does a subordinate court have,” Sharif wrote in Urdu on X, formerly known as Twitter.