As Pakistan moves towards bringing in a caretaker setup to see through the process of a political power transition in the wake of the general elections, former Prime Minister Imran Khan seems to be running out of options to tackle and delay his legal battles.
Currently, hundreds of cases, including treason, corruption, exposing state secrets and contempt, are registered against Khan, forcing him to spend hours with his legal team to find ways to get relief from the courts.
For months now,Khan and his legal team have been trying to tackle the legal hearings either by questioning the legality of the cases, getting bails or by becoming part of the proceedings.
However, these tactics are also proving to be futile, especially in cases with serious repercussions and outcomes, which may result in arrest, political disqualification and in some cases, even capital punishment.
Some of the major cases that might put the former premier’s political career to rest are the Toshakhana, Al- Qadir Trust Fund and the Cipher probe.
In the Toshakhana (gift depository) case, Khan is accused of illegally selling the gifts he received as Prime Minister from various diplomats and heads of state of countries.
He is accused of using his office to have less than market price evaluated and then selling them off to international market vendors on a much higher price, before settling a percentage of the evaluated cost.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had issued a landmark verdict into the Toshakhana reference, disqualifying Khan from holding public office for at least five years.
The case was filed in August 2022 by the country’s ruling coalition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).
In the Al-Qadir Trust Fund case, Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi are accused of obtaining land worth billions of rupees from business tycoon Malik Riaz to build an educational institute named Al-Qadir University.
A backdoor illegal deal with Riaz has caused a loss of more than $239 million to the national exchequer, in a quid pro quid arrangement with the real estate businessman.
In December 2019, Riaz had agreed to hand over assets, including properties worth $239 million, to the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) in an investigation related to “dirty money”.
Later, Riaz made arrangements with Khan through closed-door meetings to route the money back to his account by using government’s channels and offered the then sitting premier to use that money to buy land and build the Al-Qadir Trust University near Mianwali, Punjab.
Moreover, Riaz allegedly also gave diamonds to Khan’s wife and also bought acres of land as a return to the former premier’s support.
Khan and Bushra Bibi are the trustees of Al-Qadir trust.
The case puts Khan in trouble for using his public office and powers to favour Riaz and route the money back into his account.
It was in this reference that Khan was disqualified by the ECP.
Later, he challenged the case in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) through different petitions, challenging the legality behind ECP’s verdict against him.
However, it is a fact that Khan has been deliberately keeping himself away from the investigation into the case being done by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), resulting in issuance of his arrest warrants for failure to cooperate in the investigation “willfully and intentionally”.
This has forced Khan to appear before NAB and the Islamabad High Court.
Legal experts say that Khan’s intent to delay the case through non-appearance seems to indicate that his legal team may not have enough evidence to prove his innocence.
Khan claims that the case is political motivated and is intended to remove him from political race.
The third crucial case is of Cipher, the famous paper flash that Khan did during a public rally in Islamabad, claiming that he has possession of a diplomatic wire in his hand, which indicated of a US-led conspiracy of a regime change by ousting him off power.
Khan slammed the country’s military establishment and his opposition political parties for committing treason by conspiring with the US to oust him, a campaigned narrative through public gatherings.
However, after months, he took a U-turn from his position and stated that US had nothing to do with the conspiracy and the country’s military establishment and the PDM did that it.
However, his claim that of possessing the diplomatic cipher, shared by Pakistan’s then US Ambassador and its public flashing on a paper, has attracted serious legal implications for Khan as a diplomatic cipher is something that holds sensitive information and its leak is considered punishable under country’s Secret Act and treason.
Legal experts say that there is a political motive behind all these cases against Khan.
The government wants to ensure that he is disqualified and removed from the political race for the next political government.
On the other hand, Khan wants to ensure that he delays the cases as much as possible and see through the general elections before any verdict is announced against him.
But with the military establishment and the ruling coalition government standing against Khan, the legal rope seems to be tightening and may well bring about the end game to his political career.