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Pakistan’s top court accepts Imran Khan’s plea for bail

PAKISTAN’S Supreme Court accepted a bail application from detained former Prime Minister Imran Khan, his lawyer said, a day after another court declared illegal his trial on charges of leaking state secrets.

The former cricket star is fighting various legal battles in the hope of securing release from jail and leading his party in a campaign for a Feb. 8 general election, which his arch-rival, another former prime minister, is hoping to win.

The 71-year-old was jailed on Aug. 5 for three years jail for unlawfully selling state gifts during his tenure as prime minister from 2018 to 2022. His lawyer said the Supreme Court had accepted the bid for bail.

“A decision will come in the next hearing after arguments from both sides,” lawyer Naeem Panjutha said in a post of the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

No date had been set for the hearing, he said, adding that the Supreme Court would seek input from the government on the application.

Khan has been at the centre of protracted political turmoil in nuclear-armed Pakistan that has shone a spotlight on the powerful military’s influence over civilian politics.

He was forced from office in 2022 after losing a no-confidence vote in parliament, saying at the time the military was trying to sideline him after he fell out with the generals over top security appointments.

Even though Khan can not run in the February election because of his conviction, his party will face off against the party of Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister who was ousted in a 1999 coup and forced from power again in 2017 by a court ruling.

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Sharif returned home last month from four years of self-exile to help his party retain power.

The political chaos has coincided with Pakistan’s most dire economic conditions in decades, raising concern for the future of the country of 241 million people.

Pakistan has a long record of political rivalries being played out in legal battles.

Khan has had dozens of cases filed against him. He dismisses the charges which he says have been cooked up by his enemies, including the military, to keep him out of politics.

The military, which has ruled directly or overseen civilian governments since Pakistan’s creation in 1947, denies involvement in Khan’s troubles.

In a positive step for Khan, the Islamabad High Court on Tuesday declared illegal his trial on charges relating to an accusation he released a classified cable sent to Islamabad by Pakistan’s ambassador in the United States last year.

The court found that the trial, being held in jail for security reasons, did not meet legal requirements, meaning the prosecution would have to restart the case.

Khan has been convicted and jailed in connection with one case of graft but a court suspended the sentence to allow his release on bail. He remains locked up in connection with other cases.