Will Pakistan’s ex-PM Imran Khan be out of electoral race?

As the general elections are inching closer, it seems eminent that the upcoming election will not even see Khan in contention, which may also result in a weak voter turnout.

Islamabad: Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is facing major legal challenges with serious allegations ranging from corruption to sedition, may be ruled out of the electoral race in the upcoming general elections scheduled for February 8, 2024.

Khan, who was ousted from power through a vote of no confidence by the opposition alliance on April 10, 2022, has led a massive campaign against the country’s military establishment and his political opposition, becoming the country’s most popular leader. And despite the fact that he is currently imprisoned and is facing major legal cases, coupled with the May 9 riots targeted at military installations across the country, which led to the complete dismantling of his political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Khan is still widely loved by his supporters, who dub all allegations against him as “false and concocted.”

Now, as the general elections are inching closer, it seems eminent that the upcoming election will not even see Khan in contention, which may also result in a weak voter turnout.

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“If Imran Khan would not be contesting the next elections, and keeping in view the majority support he still enjoys among the people, the whole election process would remain shrouded with concerns and questions over its credibility,” said senior political analyst Javed Siddique.

“And because Imran Khan is still the standing most popular leader, his eviction would reflect on the polls through a very weak voter turnout, which would also mean that the next elected government would not be representative of people’s choice,” he added.

The reason why elections without Khan may trigger a weak voter turnout can also be established through a recent survey by GALLUP, which revealed that at least 63 percent of PTI voters would not cast their vote if Imran Khan was not the chairman of PTI.

GALLUP, in its survey, asked: “If Imran Khan will not be the chairman of Tehreek-e-Insaf, but the party still stands in the elections, would you vote for such a party?”

The question was answered with a clear “NO” by at least 63 percent, whereas 37 percent still said they would vote for the party.

It is pertinent to mention here that currently Khan is not the chairman of PTI because he has been convicted in the Toshakhana (gift repository) case.

In the latest, Khan’s plea before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) seeking suspension of the trial court’s conviction has also been rejected, while the National Accountability Board (NAB) has also filed a reference against Khan and his wife, Bushra Bibi, in the same case, whose hearing would start on December 23.

The decision of the IHC has practically barred Khan from contesting the upcoming general elections.

Even the new chairman of PTI, Barrister Gohar Khan, is unsure if Imran Khan will be able to contest the elections or not.

“If the election schedule is not changed, there are only a few days to get a decision from the Supreme Court in favor of Imran Khan. I am not sure if that would be a possibility, but we will try,” he said.

May 9, 2023, is being considered no less than a 9/11 for PTI and Imran Khan, as its repercussions have dismantled the party, forced Imran Khan to fall from the sky to the ground, and now left it to even go through rigorous legal challenges to retain its political symbol of the cricket bat for its members to contest the general elections.

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