Imran Khan acquitted of leaking state secrets

Pakistan's former prime minister Imran KhanAFP file photo

A Pakistan high court on Monday overturned a treason conviction against former prime minister Imran Khan, who remains in jail on other charges.

The conviction was one of three slapped on Khan in the runup to February elections, which he claims were orchestrated to prevent his return to power.

The decision by a two-member bench at Islamabad High Court was announced by Chief Justice Aamer Farooq, an AFP court reporter witnessed.

"This is the first big case which was part of the political victimisation against Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi which has been dashed to the ground," Salman Safdar, a lawyer for Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, told AFP outside of court.

Khan was convicted along with Qureshi, his former foreign secretary, of making public a classified cable sent to Islamabad by Pakistan's ambassador in Washington in 2022.

He had touted the cypher as evidence that the United States had conspired to force him from power in 2022, when a no-confidence vote saw him replaced by the opposition.

The United States and Pakistan's military have denied the accusation.

Khan remains jailed on a seven-year sentence for breaking Islamic law by marrying his wife Bushra Bibi too soon after her divorce.

He has also been found guilty of graft over gifts he received in his time as premier between 2018 and 2022.

While his 14-year sentence was suspended in April, the conviction still stands.

Khan was ousted by a parliamentary no-confidence vote after falling out with the top generals, and in opposition he waged an unprecedented campaign of defiance against them.

Analysts regard Pakistan as a "hybrid regime", where the military establishment wields immense power to determine the course of ostensibly democratic politics.

Khan later found himself tangled in more than 200 court cases, massively complicating his attempts to mount a comeback.

Despite that, candidates loyal to PTI secured more seats than any other party in the February elections -- which were marred by allegations of vote tampering

A broad coalition of parties considered more pliable to the influence of the military kept the MPs from power.