Imran Khan, Pakistan's former prime minister, has called for protests after he was sentenced to three years in prison for illegally selling state gifts.

Police were seen surrounding his home in the eastern city of Lahore on Saturday after the verdict was handed down.

The 70-year-old former cricketer has been arrested after he was sentenced for unlawfully selling state gifts while he was prime minister between 2018 and 2022 following an inquiry conducted by the election commission.

In a video message he urged people to peacefully protest until they get their rights, namely a government of their choice through voting and "not the one like today's occupying power."

He was accused of misusing his position to buy and sell gifts received during visits abroad worth more than 140 million Pakistani rupees ($635,000).

"Police have arrested Imran Khan from his residence," Mr Khan's lawyer Intezar Panjotha said. "We are filing a petition against the decision in (the) high court."

Lahore's Police Chief Bilal Siddique Kamiana confirmed the arrest and said Mr Khan was being transferred to the capital, Islamabad.

Mr Khan said his arrest was "expected" in a pre-recorded video statement posted on Twitter.

"People of Pakistan, when this video reaches you, they will have arrested me and I'll be in jail," he said.

"I have one request and an appeal, that you should not sit quietly at home.

"This sacrifice I'm doing is not for myself, I'm doing it for my country and for you and for your kids' futures. If you're not going to stand up for your country, you will be servants, and there no such a life for servants."

Mr Khan has denied any wrongdoing and his political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said in a statement another appeal has already been filed to the country's supreme court.

Legal experts say the conviction could end his chances of taking part in the national elections that have to be held before November.

The UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said it is monitoring the situation in Pakistan closely.

Pakistan's information minister Maryam Aurangzeb denied Khan's arrest was linked to the upcoming elections and said he had been "proven guilty of illegal practices, corruption, concealing assets and wrongly declaring wealth in tax returns."

She insisted the conviction followed a full investigation and proper legal proceedings, during which he had every opportunity to defend himself.

"Instead Imran Khan used the time to delay the court proceedings and went back and forth to the high court and supreme court to halt this case," she said.

Since he was ousted from power in a no-confidence vote in April last year, Mr Khan has been hit with more than 150 legal cases, including allegations of corruption, terrorism, and inciting violence over deadly protests that saw his followers attack government and military property across the country in May.

The action was sparked by the popular opposition leader's arrest on 9 May on corruption charges.

He was released three days later following a ruling by the country's Supreme Court.

Days after he was granted bail, Mr Khan told Sky News that Pakistan's government is "petrified of elections" and fears being "wiped out" by his party at the polls.

A group of pro-Khan lawyers gathered at his home chanting slogans and protesting his conviction and arrest on Saturday, although there were no immediate signs of the unrest seen in May.

Faheem Malik, the UK information secretary of the PTI party, described Mr Khan's latest arrest as "very shocking".

"The whole country really is in chaos," he told Sky News.

"My biggest worry is the whole of Pakistan is really, really upset."

Mr Malik described the court's decision as "embarrassing" and said the government wants to shut him down due to his "popularity" and because he would win a "landslide victory" in the upcoming elections.

"They don't want Imran Khan to join the election," he added.

(Sky News)


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