Jailed ex-PM Imran Khan appears in top Pakistani court

Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan has appeared before the Supreme Court by video-link from prison to plead his petition against changes in Pakistan's anti-graft laws.

His video appearance on Thursday was expected to be streamed live on the court's website and YouTube, making it the first publicly seen visuals of the jailed leader since his arrest in August 2023. But the pictures could not be seen on the website as proceedings began.

It was not immediately clear why the feed was not available on the website or YouTube. The top court has lately been allowing live streaming of important cases.

Up to 15,000 of Khan's supporters waited on the YouTube channel of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party for the court visuals to be aired. That number fell below 5000 when it became apparent the live stream was not happening.

Khan, a 71-year-old cricketer-turned-politician, has been appearing in other courts since being jailed on corruption charges, but cameras have not been permitted to cover those proceedings which are usually conducted on the jail premises.

While Khan has been fighting dozens of cases registered against him, Thursday's appearance was in connection with a case he has filed against amendments to Pakistan's anti-graft legislation.

During three hours of proceedings, Khan's microphone was muted before Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa adjourned the hearing. A date for the next hearing would be given later after consultation with his fellow judges, he said.

Regarding Khan's video link appearance, he said "the same arrangement will continue", according to a Reuters reporter inside the courtroom.

Khan's party circulated a screen grab, which instantly went viral, that showed him wearing a sky-blue polo shirt, freshly shaven and with dyed hair.

Though the origin of the screen grab could not be verified independently, it appeared to match what was shown on the screen inside the court, according to the Reuters reporter present.

Court staff were seen checking how such an image could have been captured when phones or cameras were not allowed in the courtroom, the Reuters reporter said, but the court did not take any formal notice or issue any orders for an investigation.

Khan remained seated throughout the hearing but looked uncomfortable and kept changing positions when he was not asked any questions by the court even after couple of hours, according to the Reuters reporter.

The Supreme Court had this week ordered the government to ensure that Khan be produced via video link, granting his request to be allowed to represent himself instead of through a lawyer.

Khan, who was removed from power in 2022, was granted bail in a land corruption case on Wednesday, but will remain in prison having been convicted in four cases, of which sentences in two have been suspended.

The former prime minister, who remains widely popular in Pakistan, alleges that the cases are part of an effort by his political rivals and the country's powerful military to sideline him and keep him from returning to power. Both deny this.

Khan-backed candidates won the most seats in a national election earlier this year despite him being in jail, but they did not have the numbers to form a government.

An alliance of his rivals led by previous prime minister Shehbaz Sharif eventually formed a government.