The courtroom, typically a place of solemnity, was now charged with an air of disbelief. Imran Khan, the cricketing legend turned politician, stood stoically as the judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain delivered the verdict in the so-called cypher case under the Official Secrets Act. The courtroom erupted in whispers, as supporters and critics alike exchanged glances of shock while Khan and Qureshi exchanged smiles as if they already expected it. Khan faces over 200 trumped up charges, ranging from corruption, terrorism, and breaking numerous laws during his tenure as the country’s prime minister. The verdict’s timing, coming just nine days before the February 8 elections, has raised new questions about the fairness of the national elections, which are reportedly being heavily influenced by its military.
Numerous accounts of the court verdict, delivered inside Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail under close watch of Pakistan’s military, were making rounds on social media. “The judge virtually ran away from the temporary court room, the jail’s community hall, after dellvering the verdict,” said one journalist who was in the court room. The verdict is being described as the most controversial in Pakistan’s judicial history, which is known for its lowest legal standards and corruption.
Mirza Moiz Baig, a Karachi-based lawyer, said that the verdict will be remembered for the “extraneous reasons” the trial was conducted in, and raises concerns about the “integrity and impartiality” of the court. The question of court’s partiality was also raised by The Intercept’s Washington Bureau Chief Ryan Grim during the State Department’s briefing on January 30 when spokesman Matthew Miller avoided to comment on Khan’s sentencing.
Ryan Grim takes US hypocrisy to cleansers ….
“Nothing about Imran Khan’s prosecution seems less than kangaroo Courts . So why would Venezuela’s be a political case, but when it comes to Pakistan, that’s a matter for the Pakistani courts?”pic.twitter.com/tfy3iVtM84
— MNA (@Engr_Naveed111) January 30, 2024
— RAHEEL GUJJAR (@R444elGujjar) January 30, 2024
For years, Khan had been seen as a symbol of hope, a leader who promised to root out corruption and usher in a new era of transparency. His fall from grace was both unexpected and disheartening for many who had placed their faith in him.
Social media platforms buzzed with the news, the hashtags #ImranKhanTrial and #JudgmentDay trending nationally. In the days that followed, the country grappled with the aftermath of the verdict. Protests erupted in major cities, with Khan’s loyal supporters vehemently denouncing the decision.
International reactions were swift and varied. Some nations expressed concern over the stability of the region. Amidst the chaos, Imran Khan remained resolute. In a brief statement released through his legal team, he maintained his innocence, vowing to appeal the verdict.
The charismatic leader, who once galvanized the masses with promises of change, now found himself at the center of a legal maelstrom, his political future uncertain. As the nation grappled with the repercussions of Imran Khan’s sentencing, one thing became abundantly clear—Pakistan stood at a crossroads, facing a pivotal moment that would shape its political landscape for years to come. The echoes of the courtroom’s judgment reverberated through the corridors of power, leaving a nation in introspection and uncertainty.
Pakistan’s judiciary has been widely condemned for serving as a foot soldier for the country’s berserk generals who have ruthlessly ruled the South Asian nation for more than half of its existence. The New York-based International Human Rights Foundation condemned the court decision.
#Pakistan🇵🇰 #IHRF‘s official statement. The International Human Rights Foundation has conducted a meticulous review of the legal proceedings against Mr Imran Khan, the former Prime Minister, and Mr Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the former Foreign Minister. Our findings reveal a… pic.twitter.com/ZTcclSjOBW
— International Human Rights Foundation (@IHRF_English) January 30, 2024
Jurists in Pakistan expressed confidence that a high court will strike the verdict down because of the visible flaws in its legal standing. Majority of Pakistanis and international commentators accuse the military of orchestrating the country’s destabilizing political drama.
In another ‘planted’ case, Pakistani establishment’s ‘planted’ court puts Imran Khan 10 years in prison. Pakistani army has killed Pakistani democracy before it started crawling and has now turned the judiciary to a joke.
— Ashok Swain (@ashoswai) January 30, 2024
Commentators inside and outside Pakistan agree that even if Nawaz Sharif, who was convicted for money laundering, is installed through electoral rigging by the generals, it will not bring political stability to Pakistan, something Pakistan’s tanked economy needs.
Political Victimization in Pakistan & Conviction of Imran Khan in Cypher Case. pic.twitter.com/sN4WSDqXLy
— Barrister Salman Safdar (@BrSalmanSafdar) January 30, 2024
Khan, according to his Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party, has called on his supporters to stay calm and actively participate in the February 8 verdict. “The real verdict on the case of #ImranKhan versus the ‘Deep State’ will be on Feb 8. On Election Day,” said Dr. Muhammad al-Hachimi al-Hamidi, Author, and Chairman of Almustakillah TV, a London-based Arabic TV channel, on X (formerly Twitter).
The real verdict on the case of #ImranKhan versus the ‘Deep State’ will be on Feb 8. On Election Day.
— د. محمد الهاشمي الحامدي (@MALHACHIMI) January 30, 2024
“As long as there is a drop of blood in him, your captain will stand… There is no question of accepting defeat. Whatever they’ll do Im ready to face it. And this is what I would like to tell my nation as well – do not accept defeat in any circumstances.”
– Imran Khan
— PTI Canada Official (@PTIOfficialCA) January 31, 2024