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Pakistan’s Imran Khan Has Prison Sentence Suspended

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s prison suspension, Sudan’s military leader’s visit to Egypt, and the Pentagon’s drone deal to counter China.

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s prison suspension, Sudan’s military leader’s visit to Egypt, and the Pentagon’s drone deal to counter China.

Just When I Thought I Was Out…

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan secured a legal win on Tuesday when an appeals court suspended his three-year prison sentence over accusations that Khan never had the opportunity to properly defend himself. Now, the nation’s Supreme Court must decide if Khan’s conviction should also be overturned.

On Aug. 5, Khan was found guilty of concealing assets obtained from selling state gifts given to him by foreign leaders while in office. Pakistan’s Election Commission proceeded to disqualify Khan from seeking office for five years because, under Pakistani law, no convicted person is eligible to lead a party, run in elections, or hold public office. That meant Khan could not run in Pakistan’s upcoming parliamentary elections, which were set to take place later this year but are now likely to be delayed.

If Pakistan’s Supreme Court follows Tuesday’s appellate court ruling and throws out his conviction, then Khan will be eligible to run for reelection. However, despite the Supreme Court having not decided anything yet, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party deemed the suspension of his sentencing a win for democracy.

But Khan is not out of legal hot water yet. The former leader faces more than 100 cases against him, including charges of abetment to murder, orchestrating violent protests, and leaking state secrets. The Islamabad High Court granted Khan bail on Tuesday—but instead of releasing him, the court ordered jail authorities to keep him locked up so that on Wednesday, Khan can face charges on a completely different case.

In this one, authorities allege Khan publicized the contents of a confidential cable sent by Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States as a means to try to prove that Washington was behind his ouster. Islamabad’s Parliament ousted Khan in April 2022 via a no-confidence vote, something Khan has gone on to accuse the United States and the Pakistani military of orchestrating. Both have denied these allegations. If Khan is convicted of leaking classified documents later this week, it doesn’t matter what the country’s Supreme Court decides in the first case; Khan will still not be eligible to run for office.

“[A]rresting him in any other case will cause further damage to our national integrity and repute of judicial system,” Zulfi Bukhari, Khan’s former aide, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Let the innocent be free!”

With Khan hardly an advocate for democracy and his successor, Shehbaz Sharif, accusing the country’s judicial system of favoring Khan, Pakistan now finds itself stuck between a rock and a hard place. “Khan seems to present a choice to his political opponents,” argued Husain Haqqani, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, in Foreign Policy. “[A]ccept him as their leader, paving the way for one-party leadership, or join with the military to keep Khan out of power, thus perpetuating civil-military authoritarianism.”

Aiming for peace? Sudan’s military leader visited Egypt on Tuesday in his first foreign trip since Khartoum plunged into civil war in April. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to discuss the latter’s offer to mediate an end to the conflict between the country’s military forces, which Burhan heads, and the rebel Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as Hemeti).

Egypt has maintained close ties with Sudan’s military, despite Khartoum’s periods of political upheaval. In July, Cairo hosted a regional summit with Ethiopia, South Sudan, Chad, Eritrea, the Central African Republic, and Libya to broker a cease-fire. Part of that agreement aimed at establishing humanitarian corridors for aid deliveries. More than 4.5 million people in Sudan have been displaced since the eruption of fighting.

A statement from the Egyptian presidency on Tuesday said Burhan welcomed Sisi’s initiative. However, just the day before, the Sudanese leader gave a speech promising a decisive victory over the RSF, declaring, “We do not make deals with traitors.”

Drone wars. Fearing a future military conflict with China, the U.S. Defense Department announced on Monday that it will purchase thousands of unmanned drones and other military devices over the next two years. The push to secure new military hardware is part of the Pentagon’s efforts to adapt to threats of artificial intelligence and become less “risk-averse” when it comes to adopting new technologies, said U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks. These weapons will be less expensive, easier to build, and more expendable.

The move comes amid U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s trip to the mainland to discuss establishing closer business ties as well as increasing Chinese aggression toward Taiwan, which Beijing deems part of its sovereign territory. U.S. policy technically follows strategic ambiguity toward defending Taipei. However, U.S. President Joe Biden has made several statements that seemed to undermine if not outright reverse that approach, including in September 2022, when he said U.S. forces would defend the island in the event of a Chinese invasion.

“At this point, strategic ambiguity may be doing more harm than good,” political scientist Raymond Kuo wrote in Foreign Policy. “And there are good arguments that Washington might consider switching to a policy of strategic clarity—such as a NATO-style security guarantee for Taiwan—instead.”

Record-breaking blaze. Greece is battling “the largest wildfire ever recorded” in the European Union since the bloc began keeping data in 2000, according to the European Forest Fire Information System on Tuesday. Eleven planes and one helicopter—nearly half of the EU’s firefighting air wing—have been dispatched to a forest north of Alexandroupoli, Greece, where the blaze has already burned an area larger than New York City.

Since beginning on Aug. 19, the wildfire has killed at least 20 people, many of them migrants or refugees crossing the Greek-Turkish border. According to the fire service, the blaze remains “out of control.” This year has seen record-breaking heat waves and other climate disasters across the continent. At the height of the 2023 summer, more than 100 wildfires stretched across Southern Europe.

Austria is offering citizens free public transportation—with a catch. For one year, Austrians can ride the country’s railways and buses for free if they get “KlimaTicket,” the name of Austria’s eco-friendly public transport pass, tattooed on their body. Six people have participated thus far. However, the climate minister herself appeared to only don a fake tattoo to support the cause.

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