Party Of Pakistan's Former Jailed Prime Minister Imran Khan Elects New Head

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Jailed former Pakistani premier Imran Khan 's party elected Saturday a new head for the first time since it was established, following the recommendation of the imprisoned politician.

Khan has been in charge of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI, since he founded it in 1996.

On Wednesday, the former prime minister — who is currently serving a three-year sentence — named one of his lawyers, Gohar Khan, as a candidate for the party’s top post.

The party's chief election commissioner, Niazullah Niazi, confirmed Saturday that Gohar was elected, after running unopposed, and has replaced Khan in the intra-party polls.

After his election, PTI’s new head told party supporters in the northern city of Peshawar — from where the election results were announced — that he would remain a loyal representative of Imran Khan.

“I will step down once the conviction of Imran Khan is overturned,” he said.

Gohar Khan is a lawyer of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the country’s top judicial body, according to his website; He graduated from Wolverhampton University in the UK and is currently part of Imran Khan’s legal defense team.

A senior PTI leader, Omar Ayub Khan, said that the former premier set a precedent by nominating a party member as his successor rather than a relative, a common practice in Pakistan's political circles. "He set an impossibly high bar,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Last month, the Election Commission of Pakistan gave PTI 20 days to choose a leader after annulling the party election of last year, when Imran Khan was renewed as head.

Imran Khan, the former cricketer who became one of the country’s most popular politicians, was convicted in August for unlawfully selling state gifts and was unable to run in his party’s election. He was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament in 2022 and has since been mired in legal battles over corruption charges and revealing state secrets among others.

Khan had denied all charges and depicted his ouster as part of a campaign against him by then Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the United States and the Pakistani military — a claim all three deny.