Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan acquitted in state secrets case

A court in Islamabad acquitted Imran Khan of leaking state secrets but the former Pakistan prime minister will remain in prison because of his conviction in another case.

The court annulled the sentence of Mr Khan and his close aide, former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in what is known as the “cipher case” on Monday. The two had been sentenced to 10 years in prison in January by a special court set up in prison in Rawalpindi for publicly revealing a diplomatic cable in 2022.

Mr Khan, ousted as prime minister in 2022, has received three prison sentences, which he claims are politically motivated.

Despite the acquittal, Mr Khan will stay in prison, serving sentences with his wife Bushra Bibi, over charges related to their 2018 marriage and corruption allegations during his tenure as prime minister. On 3 February, Mr Khan and his wife were sentenced to seven years when a court in Rawalpindi declared that their marriage in 2018 violated Islamic law.

“Thank God, the sentence is overturned,” PTI spokesperson Naeem Panjutha wrote on X on Monday.

Mr Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) hailed Monday’s verdict. Party leader Syed Zulfikar Bukhari said in a post on X that the state’s “malafide attempt to establish IK [Imran Khan] and SMQ [Shah Mahmood Qureshi] as traitors goes into the dustbin”.

In April 2022, Mr Khan was ousted from power through a parliamentary vote of no-confidence. He claimed a secret diplomatic cable proved that there was a US-led conspiracy with Pakistan’s military and opposition to remove him.

State authorities accused Mr Khan of using the document for political purposes and not returning it, leading to a special court sentencing him and his ally Mr Qureshi to ten years in prison.

Washington and the Pakistani army reject these accusations.

Meanwhile, the government’s spokesperson for legal affairs, Aqeel Malik, told the media that the prosecution might appeal the decision in the country’s top court. “If the prosecution feels that there was an error [in the judgment] or it should be challenged, it will decide whether to appeal [the verdict] in the Supreme Court.”

Mr Khan has been in jail since August last year, facing trial in multiple cases.