Imran Khan’s party has challenged a disqualification ruling by the election commission and called for protests.
Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, has been banned from running in elections and becoming a member of parliament for the next five years. The decision by the election commission was rejected by his party, which has called for street protests in response to what they say is an act of political bias.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) accused Khan of failing to properly report how his government handled gifts that he had received while in office. It constituted “corrupt practices” that warranted his disqualification from holding public office, the body announced on Friday.
Senior officials in Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party rejected the ruling and said they would challenge it in court.
Fawad Chaudhry, who was the minister of law under Khan, called the ruling a “slap on the face of 220 million” party supporters and claimed that the verdict was “written by Nawaz Sharif and signed by his servants,” according to local news website Dawn.
He was referring to the former Pakistani prime minister, who is also the brother of the incumbent head of the government, Shehbaz Sharif. Chaudhry declared the “beginning of the revolution.”
Reports of protests and some street clashes between PTI supporters and police have been coming from several cities, including the capital Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, and Karachi. On the Lahore–Islamabad motorway, people burned tires, according to videos shared on social media.
In the capital itself, police appeared to deploy tear gas to disperse demonstrators. Footage from the scene showed thick white clouds billowing in the streets, with people running away.
The Pakistani government called the verdict a proper execution of justice and said Khan may face prosecution for corruption. Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar also accused the PTI leadership of inciting “mobs” to attack Pakistani cities.
Khan was removed as prime minister in August in a no-confidence vote in parliament. He claimed that it was a soft coup orchestrated by Washington to place a more pliable politician at the helm of the country. Both Shehbaz Sharif and the US government denied the allegations.
The case reviewed by the ECP was related to four gifts from foreign countries, which Khan admitted to selling. In his formal reply to the commission last month, he insisted that he paid their value to the treasury when he received them.
Certain top government officials in Pakistan are legally obliged to declare all gifts but are allowed to keep those below a certain value. More expensive items must go to a special office called Toshakhana, but in some cases, the recipient can buy them back at around half their value.