ISLAMABAD — Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has had his three-year sentence for corruption suspended, but it is unclear if he will be freed from jail.
The Islamabad High Court gave him bail until his appeal over the conviction is heard.
However, another court has also ordered the 70-year-old to be kept in custody until Wednesday in a separate case.
Khan’s lawyers say more than 100 charges have been brought against him since his removal from power last year.
These include leaking state secrets and organizing violent protests. Various arrest warrants have been issued in relation to these charges.
Khan says all the charges against him are politically motivated.
The former prime minister’s lawyers are seeking a Supreme Court order to prevent him from being detained in any other case, but no date has been set to hear this petition.
They said the Supreme Court was waiting to hear Tuesday’s outcome in the High Court before they set one.
“We are very hopeful he will be released,” said one of his lawyers, Gauhar Khan.
“So far we have not been informed that he is arrested under any other case.”
The international cricket star-turned-politician was sentenced to three years in jail on 5 August for not declaring money earned from selling gifts he received during his time in office from 2018-2022.
The gifts — reported to be worth more than 140 million Pakistani rupees ($635,000; £500,000) — included Rolex watches, a ring and a pair of cuff links.
As a result of that conviction, he was barred from contesting an election for five years.
The so-called “cipher case” that Khan is now being kept in jail for relates to the alleged leaking of a diplomatic cable.
In the appeal which has led to the suspension of his sentence, Khan’s lawyers argue that he was convicted without being able to defend himself.
The news comes a day after another high court dismissed sedition charges against him, saying they had been improperly filed.
Authorities deny any political motivation in Khan’s arrest or disqualification from running for public office.
They have repeatedly accused the judges who gave Imran Khan relief of being politically motivated.
Khan is currently being held in Attock jail, a small facility in Punjab province with historical ties to the military, about 85km (52 miles) from the capital Islamabad.
According to local media, a number of members of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party have previously been held there.
Prior to his sentencing, he had managed to avoid arrest for months, with his supporters at times fighting pitched battles with police to keep him out of custody.
On 9 May, Khan was arrested for not appearing at court as requested. He was released three days later, with the arrest ruled illegal.
But the arrest sparked protests across Pakistan — some of them violent and many targeting installations belonging to the military who demonstrators blamed for his downfall. Several thousand of his supporters were alleged to have been involved in the protests and were arrested.
Since then, Khan and the PTI have faced a crackdown, with many of his senior leadership arrested, before announcing they were leaving the party. Many vocal supporters of Khan now feel nervous to express their opinion or even have quietly deleted their previous comments.
Some of those arrested in the protests supporting Khan will face trial in military courts for alleged violence, despite an outcry from human rights groups.
Khan has previously said the army in Pakistan was “petrified” of elections which his party would win “hands down” and, for that reason, “they’re dismantling a democracy”.
The army plays a prominent role in Pakistan’s politics, sometimes seizing power in military coups and, on other occasions, pulling levers behind the scenes.
Many analysts believe Khan’s election win in 2018 happened with the help of the military.
In opposition, he has been one of its most vocal critics, and analysts say the army’s popularity has fallen.
Pakistan’s parliament was dissolved on 9 August, leaving a caretaker government to take over in the run-up to general elections due this year, but likely to be delayed.
It is unclear if they will take place by early November, as required in the constitution. — BBC