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A joke: Celebrities slam verdict against Imran Khan in cypher case

Several came out in support of the former premier, following which he was convicted in Toshakhana case

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An accountability court sentenced former premier Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi to 14 years imprisonment in the Toshakhana case. The verdict comes a day after the PTI founder was sentenced to 10 years in the cypher case by a special court established under the Official Secrets Act.

A Pakistan court had sentenced Khan and his aide, former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, to 10 years in jail in a case related to the leaking of state secrets. A special court set up in a prison in Rawalpindi on Tuesday announced the sentence in the cypher case, involving a diplomatic cable that Khan claims proved that his removal from power in 2022 was a conspiracy.

The court established under the Official Secrets Act found Khan guilty of misusing the confidential cable sent by a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States. Khan has repeatedly denied the charge, saying the document contained evidence that his removal as prime minister was a plot hatched by his political opponents and the powerful military, with help from the US administration. Washington and the Pakistani army reject the accusation.

Khan was Pakistan’s premier from August 2018 to April 2022 when he lost a vote of confidence in the parliament. He has been in jail since August last year, facing trial in multiple cases.

The sentencing against the country’s main opposition leader comes a week before the general elections. Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari, a spokesperson for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, told Al Jazeera that the PTI will challenge the court’s decision. He said that the trial was held in an “unlawful manner”. “Our lawyers were not allowed to represent Imran Khan. They were not even allowed to cross-examine the witnesses. What was unfolding in the court was merely a charade and a sham,” Bukhari said.

The verdict follows a massive crackdown against the PTI, which saw dozens of its leaders quitting the party and thousands of its members and supporters jailed. Recently, the party also lost its election symbol – the cricket bat – and had been forced to field its candidates as independents. But Bukhari said the verdict against Khan and Qureshi will only work in favour of the beleaguered party.

PTI supporters and several celebrities have been condemning the verdict since yesterday, all while encouraging their fans and followers to vote for PTI on February 8. Rap star Talha Anjum on Tuesday, took a dig at all political opponents of Khan on X. “Vote for Imran and ban all others. Long live Pakistan,” he tweeted in Punjabi – the translation has been watered down to meet editorial standards.

Singer Hasan Raheem also shared, “Aur meri jaan kay totay vote zarur daalna (And my love, you must vote).”

Sharing the report of Imran’s sentence, actor Armeena Khan wrote on X, “Nonsense! Pakistani judicial system was and is a joke.” Actor Ushna Shah tweeted in a similar vein, “Ten years for what!? Is this a joke?”

Guitarist Salman Ahmad also slammed the judge who passed the verdict, “Judges like Hasnat [Zulqarnain] and [Humayun] Dilawar have devoted their entire lives to destabilizing the judiciary. Plummeting the rule of law index below the lowest in the world, who would want to be a judge in Pakistan?”

In another tweet, he alleged, “The army chief in Pakistan does not represent the interests of 240 million Pakistanis. Today’s army chief controlled court sentenced former PM Imran Khan and foreign minister SMQ to 10 years on a bogus case. The only way out for Pakistan is maximum voter turnout February 8.”

Actor Adnan Malik went on to ask, “This is just history repeating. When will Pakistan stop being at war with itself? #CypherCase”

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