A Pakistani court announced charges against former Prime Minister Imran Khan for making public the contents of a diplomatic cable to allegedly show his ouster from power last year was part of a conspiracy led by the U.S. and the South Asian country’s powerful military.
A special court judge indicted the former premier and his foreign minister at the time, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, for violating the official Secrets Act by leaking a classified cable sent from Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington to Islamabad early last year, Khan’s lawyer Shoaib Shaheen said by phone.
Both men denied the allegations, calling the charges politically motivated. The next hearing is scheduled for October 27 that will see witnesses presented for statements and cross-questioning, said Shaheen.
The court proceedings were held in a jail outside Islamabad where Khan is detained for the secret cable case. This is the second indictment against Khan who faces a maximum of 14 years prison if he is found guilty, complicating his attempts to contest in elections scheduled for late January.
The former cricket star was disqualified from running for public office for five years after he was convicted in a corruption case in August. Khan successfully appealed to a higher court to suspend his three-year jail sentence, though he faces more than 170 cases, ranging from murder to terrorism.
Pakistan’s top investigative agency filed a case against Khan and Qureshi for revealing the cable’s contents as proof of a conspiracy led by the U.S. to unseat the former leader days before the no-confidence vote. Washington, together with Pakistan’s military and the opposition at the time, denied Khan’s claims.
Khan remains the most popular politician in Pakistan despite his ouster in April 2022 and his jailing this year. Six out of ten Pakistanis approve of the firebrand politician, nearly double the ratings for Shehbaz Sharif who took over as prime minister, according to a Gallup poll carried out in June and published last month.
Sharif is counting on this week’s return of his elder brother and former three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif to galvanize the party and win over voters ahead of next year’s election. The older Sharif has a 36% approval rating among the Pakistanis surveyed.
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