Pakistan poll tribunal disqualifies Imran as MP, bars him from public office in assets case

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan was dealt potentially the biggest blow of his political career on Friday when the country’s Election Commission disqualified him as an MP and barred him from holding any public office after holding him guilty of “intentionally” making “false statements and incorrect declaration of assets”.
In what it said was a “unanimous” ruling, the five-member tribunal led by chairperson Sikandar Sultan Raja called for criminal proceedings to be initiated against Imran.
The ruling against the ex-PM, whose Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) won six out of seven National Assembly seats in the bypolls last week, appeared to instantly plunge the country into turmoil as protests raged in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi amid a call by his party for supporters to take to the streets everywhere.
Footage broadcast on TV stations showed parts of Peshawar littered with burning tyres. In Lahore and Rawalpindi, police were seen using tear gas on protesters.
PTI functionaries questioned the electoral tribunal’s jurisdiction and authority to deliver such a verdict, with Imran’s colleague and former minister Fawad Chaudhry quoted as saying it was “a slap on the faces of 220 million people”. The cricketer-turned-politician’s legal team intends to move the Islamabad high court against the electoral body’s verdict, counsel Faisal Chaudhry said.
The tribunal indicted Imran for “corrupt practices” while in office, including making a false declaration on the sale of gifts received from foreign dignitaries. These include Rolex watches, a ring and a pair of cufflinks. Imran, according to the order, “ceases to be a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan and his seat has become vacant accordingly”.
The case had been filed in August by Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha, a member of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), accusing Imran of hiding gifts from the “toshakhana” (a state depository).
PM Shehbaz Sharif said the Election Commission had “delivered justice” after his predecessor “shattered the ideal of ‘sadiq’ and ‘ameen’ (truthfulness and trustworthiness)” with his conduct in office. “The nation has seen that the post of PM was made a source of personal income through corrupt practices,” he tweeted, urging Imran to “bow” to the verdict instead of “contesting the law, wielding sticks, firing shots and bringing mobs”.
“No one is above the law,” he said.
Since his ouster from office last April, Imran has been out on the streets often, calling for early elections and targeting the country’s military establishment. According to him, the Army allegedly colluded with the US and his political opponents to oust him from office.

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