This week’s news of Imran Khan’s newest prison sentence of ten years for leaking state secrets only adds to the political drama unfolding in Pakistan, which is due to hold an election in early February.
The drama has not only captured the nation's attention but resonated across the region and worldwide.
Khan was the country’s prime minister from August 2018 to April 2022, when he was toppled in a no-confidence vote that he claims was prompted by US pressure.
He is currently in jail and not on the ballot for the vote, which is due to take place on 8 February. In another ruling, judges said candidates for his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), now need to run as independents.
All this matters.
In the shadows of legal battles, security concerns, and economic challenges, the choices made by Pakistani voters will reverberate through South Asia and send ripples through the corridors of power around the world.
Nation at a crossroads
Khan, an enigmatic former cricketer, is at the heart of this political maelstrom but is now being prosecuted under the country’s Official Secrets Act.
Once celebrated for promising a paradigm shift in Pakistani politics, he is behind bars, banned from running, and barrelling towards further court time to defend charges such as treason.
Other PTI leaders have been locked up, too, but they retain popularity in parts of Pakistan, with a vocal support base.