Pakistan: Rebuffing UN body’s recommendations, law minister says Imran’s detention ‘internal matter’


Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar on Tuesday rebuffed the recommendations of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention regarding PTI founder Imran Khan’s release and said the former premier’s detention was an “internal matter”.

In an opinion made public a day ago, the working group held that Imran’s prosecution and detention in the cipher and one of the two Toshakhana cases against him were “without legal basis” and politically motivated to exclude him from competing in the political arena.

The report, dated June 18, noted that the government had been transmitted a communication on Imran’s case in November 2023, but had not received a response, nor a request to extend the time limit to reply.

Now, the working group has requested the government to take the steps necessary to “remedy the situation of Mr Khan without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms”.

The working group noted how Imran was convicted in the first Toshakhana case — through a summary judgement delivered in absentia — and his subsequent arrest by law enforcement personnel, who broke into his residence and assaulted him and his staff, was concerning and compounded the illegality.

The working group further said that Imran’s prosecution in the cipher case “lacks a grounding in law, as his actions do not appear to have violated the Official Secrets Act, as was apparently corroborated by the intelligence services, according to the source’s unrebutted submissions”.

Regarding his sentences in the second Toshakhana case and the Iddat case, the UN group noted: “The working group cannot but observe the coincidence in the timing of the four prosecutions, which effectively prevented Mr Khan from contesting the general election originally scheduled for November 2023.”

The working group said the appropriate remedy would be to release Imran immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations.

It has also called on the government to ensure a full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary deprivation of Imran’s liberty and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of his rights.

The working group has referred the case to the office of two UN special rapporteurs for appropriate action.

In a statement issued today on the X account of state broadcaster PTV, Tarar responded to the report and said: “The arrest of the PTI founder and the pending cases are an internal matter of Pakistan.”

He said that as an independent state, the Constitution and prevailing laws were brought into action in the country through the courts.

“The PTI founder is entitled to all rights under the national Constitution and laws, as well as international principles,” Tarar said, adding that Imran was currently in jail as a convicted prisoner.

The law minister said the relief given to Imran by the courts in many cases manifested a transparent and fair trial of his cases by the judiciary.

He added that it was biased and unfair to make demands beyond the ambit of the Constitution, law and international norms.

The PML-N government has already spoken its mind about keeping Imran in jail for its five-year term till 2029 for “economic stability”.

“People come to us and tell us if Pakistan has to progress then Imran Khan will have to be kept in jail for five years,” Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said while talking to reporters last month.

He had said that if Imran came out of jail then there would be again sit-ins and fight and the country could not afford this.

“There is a voice of the people [that] Imran Khan should remain in jail for five years,” he had said

Imran is currently serving out his sentence in the Iddat case at Adiala Jail. His sentences in the two Toshakhana cases were suspended while he was acquitted by the Islamabad High Court in the cipher case.

However, an Islamabad district and sessions court had last week turned down the pleas of the PTI founder and his wife to suspend their seven-year sentences in the Iddat case.

The first Toshakhana case alleges that Imran had “deliberately concealed” details of the gifts he retained from the state repository during his time as the prime minister. Meanwhile, the second case concerns a reference against him and his wife Bushra Bibi, for retaining a jewellery set received from the Saudi crown prince, against an undervalued assessment.

The cipher case pertains to a diplomatic document that the Federal Investigation Agency’s charge sheet alleges was never returned by then-PM Imran, who long held that the document contained a threat from the US to topple his government.

The Iddat case is based on a complaint filed by Bushra Bibi’s ex-husband, Khawar Fareed Maneka, who alleged that Imran and her contracted marriage during the former first lady’s Iddat period.

US State Department says Imran Pakistan’s ‘internal matter’

Separately, US State Dept Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel was questioned about the working group’s report during a press briefing to which he said he would let the UN body offer clarity on its report.

“In the case of Mr Khan, you’ve heard us say this before: This is an internal matter for Pakistan. I don’t have any assessment to offer from up here,” he