Imran Khan not on the ballot, but still on country’s mind

ISLAMABAD: His name may not be on the ballot, but Imran Khan will be on the country’s mind as Pakistan votes in an election this week that observers say is deeply flawed without his participation.The former international cricket star has been given three lengthy prison sentences in under a week and has been banned from politics for 10 years, officially excluding him from an election that never looked like he would be allowed to contest.Khan enjoyed popular support when he became prime minister in 2018, but he fell out with the military establishment that nurtured his rise and was booted from power in April 2022 by a no-confidence vote.He then waged a risky and unprecedented campaign of defiance against the military, but when his supporters trashed an army commander’s headquarters last May after his first arrest, it was the final straw.He was detained again and has since fought nearly 200 court cases on charges he insists were trumped up to keep him from politics.His party says Khan, convicted of treason, corruption, and breaking Islamic law with his third marriage, is at the centre of a character assassination as the establishment tries to contain his popularity.Faith healer Bushra Bibi, rarely seen in public, wed former playboy Khan shortly before he was elected in 2018 after becoming his spiritual guide.She was convicted alongside Khan of graft and failing to adhere to “iddat,” which dictates that a divorced woman must wait three months before remarrying to leave no doubt about who the father is in the instance of a pregnancy.

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