The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has disqualified Imran Khan from holding public office. The former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman was found guilty of corruption in the Toshakhana reference. He was accused of declaring wrong details regarding the gifts from foreign dignitaries and the gainings from their alleged sale. The gifts reportedly included a ring, Rolex watches, and a pair of cuff links. The disqualification of Imran Khan means that he’s no longer a Parliament member, and his seat would be vacant. However, legal experts think that this disqualification is only till the end of the current National Assembly term, which began in 2018.
Khan has denied the charges against him, and his lawyers will challenge the verdict in the high court. In September, Ex-PM admitted that he sold up to 4 gifts and included them in the income tax. Government officials are required to declare all gifts and keep those that cost less than a certain value. Officials can also buy back those gifts at half-price in some cases. Previously, Khan claimed that he did not declare some gifts publically due to security reasons, but in a written submission, he admitted to buying items worth 100,000 USD and selling them later for double the profit.
Khan’s lawyers have vowed to challenge the ECP’s decision, saying it had “no jurisdiction in the matter”. PTI members called for supporters to take to the streets, resulting in massive protests across the country. Several videos have been making rounds on social media showing police firing tear gas at Khan’s relentless supporters. Ever since being removed from office in April, Khan has been a vocal critic of the government and the military. He has been carrying out rallies across the country, calling for new elections.
On the other hand, citizens have been debating whether the judiciary or the parliament is the supreme authority in Pakistan. To them, it seems that politicians can exploit the powers of the judiciary for their own interests.
Disqualification of Imran Khan May Make Him Stronger
Disqualification of Imran Khan generated a loud reaction from all corners. Despite being named in the corruption case, there are audio leaks in which Khan is buying party members, the same corrupt practice he accuses other parties of. Yet, his popularity keeps on rising thanks to the targeted attacks from the ruling government. A common argument is that trying to portray Khan as corrupt as other parties and shoving him out of the way would never work. He will keep on making use of the public sympathy to strengthen his position. Critics also highlighted how he has already made himself a stronger candidate by using anti-America sentiments since facing no-confidence vote. He accused the PMLN government of being the puppet of the US and his supporters carry on the chant of “imported government” in their protests against the current leaders. Experts think that antagonizing a leader as popular as Khan would solidify his position and make his claims about the reigning government stand.
Nawaz Sharif Disqualification
Some see disqualification of Imran Khan as PTI’s own making. Ever since coming to power in 2018, Khan has wildly criticized opposition and hurled corruption accusations at powerful politicians. Moreover, he filed a case again PMLN’s supreme leader Nawaz Sharif to be disqualified because of Panamagate scandal. Many believe that disqualification of NS was wrong because that was also political victimization as the court initially did not find any charges against Nawaz Sharif. It means that the court also used some black tactics under PTI’s rule. Khan came out with an increased popularity after getting NS disqualified because Sharif was considered one of the most corrupt politicians. So, now court finding a way to remove Khan from the picture is seen as a direct consequence of past mistakes.
Is it Democratic?
As for Khan’s opponents this might be a good decision as it makes a way of disappearing him out of political scene. However, for many it leaves a question whether using judiciary to disqualify popular parliamentarains is a right practice and to use law to merely victimize the opponents is essence of democracy?