(Bloomberg) -- Pakistan’s convicted leader Imran Khan will quit as the head of his political party while rival Nawaz Sharif got a conviction overturned in separate fates for the nation’s top two politicians months before national elections.

Khan won’t stand for Chairman of his Tehreek-e-Insaf in party elections as he may be disqualified from holding such a post because of conviction in a corruption case, Ali Zafar, a senior leader from Khan’s party, told reporters on Wednesday. Separately, Khan’s bitter rival and former three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s conviction was overturned by the Islamabad High Court in one of the graft cases against him, said party leader Azam Nazeer Tarar. 

Both events are seen to have consequences in the run up to the elections as the country’s two top leaders, who want to lead the nation again, are presently disqualified to hold public office. Khan, the 73-year-old former cricket captain, is facing more than 170 legal cases while a crackdown after a violent protest has seen key party leader leave the party or jailed. 

Sharif Seen as Top Leader to Tackle Pakistan Economy: Gallup

The flamboyant leader was handed a jail sentence by a judge in August for hiding income from the sale of gifts he received from foreign leaders when he was the premier from 2018 to 2022. The jail term was suspended by a court but Khan, who says cases against him are politically motivated, will stay disqualified to hold public office until his conviction is overturned. Khan has named Gohar Ali Khan as his successor in party elections on Saturday for an interim period, Zafar said.

Khan was removed as the premier in April last year in a no-confidence move in Parliament led by Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party. Khan has had falling out with the nation’s powerful military that has directly or indirectly controlled the nation’s foreign, security and other key policies. The military is seen to have been instrumental to bring Khan to power before the fallout. 

Sharif returned to Pakistan in October after a four-year self exile to galvanize support ahead of elections early in February and return his party to power. Sharif has appealed against his conviction in a second graft case, and he may become eligible to hold public office when that sentence is also overturned, Tarar said. 

(Updates with details and background throughout.)

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.