Pakistan’s Former PM Imran Khan Barred from Politics, Begins Three-year Jail Sentence

Pakistan's President Arif Alvi dissolved the country’s parliament on Wednesday on the advice of Shehbaz Sharif, the country's prime minister, clearing the way for a caretaker government that will usher the country toward national elections, which could be held later this year.

Parliament was dissolved less than a week after Sharif's predecessor, Imran Khan, was convicted on corruption charges and began serving a three-year jail sentence. Khan is also barred from serving in politics for five years — a punishment he and his supporters say is politically motivated.

Conviction rocks the political boat

The week’s events roiled Pakistani politics, which have been especially turbulent since Khan was ousted from the prime ministership in April 2022. His removal sparked outrage and widespread protests among his supporters in the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Party. In by-elections held since his ouster, the PTI has performed well. That may reflect Khan’s enduring popularity among sizable parts of the population, but it may also reflect the fact that the public holds Sharif and his allies responsible for the poor state of the economy.

When he assumed office, Sharif inherited an economy in distress. The measures he has taken to comply with the terms of a US$4-billion International Monetary Fund payment have been unpopular. His government has also failed to tame rampant inflation, adding to people’s sense of hardship.

Election date remains unclear

Pakistan must hold elections within 90 days of parliament’s dissolution. But Sharif has signalled that the country will need time to re-draw district maps in accordance with the results of a recently released census.

That could push the election past the 90-day period and would likely anger the PTI even further, possibly extending the period of profound political uncertainty.