Imran Khan gets 7-year sentence in marriage scandal
The former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, and his wife, Bushra Khan, received a seven-year prison sentence and fines on Saturday, as a court determined that their 2018 marriage violated the law, according to his party.
This ruling marks the third adverse judgment against Khan this week, just ahead of national elections on Thursday, where he is prohibited from participating. The 71-year-old leader has recently been sentenced to 10 years for leaking state secrets and 14 years, along with his wife, for the illegal sale of state gifts. His representatives have stated that appeals will be launched for all three cases. The concurrent nature of his various sentences remains unclear.
Imprisoned in Rawalpindi, Khan's wife will serve her sentence at their hilltop mansion in Islamabad. Additionally, Khan is already facing a 10-year disqualification from holding public office.
Following swift court proceedings, limited cross-examination of witnesses, and an absence of due process, Khan's party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), issued a statement, asserting a "mockery of the law." Expressing concerns about the credibility of the February 8th elections, PTI views these trials as a critical test for Pakistan's higher judiciary.
Each fined 500,000 rupees ($1,800), the Khans were accused of violating the mandated waiting period, known as "Iddat," after Bushra divorced her previous husband and married Imran. The couple signed their marriage contract, or "Nikkah," in January 2018, in a clandestine ceremony seven months before Khan assumed the prime ministerial role. Despite initial denials, PTI later confirmed the marriage.
Both Imran and Bushra vehemently denied any wrongdoing. Imran's media advisor, Zulfi Bukhari told Reuters about the allegations: "Yet another fake case."
'Criminal complaint from ex-husband'
A criminal complaint filed by Bushra's ex-husband, Khawar Maneka, who was married to her for about 30 years, triggered the legal proceedings against the Khans. Imran has often referred to Bushra as his spiritual leader, highlighting her dedication to Sufism, a mystical form of Islam. Previously known as Bushra Riaz Watto, she adopted the name Khan after her marriage.
Details about how and when Imran met Bushra remain unclear, but former aide Aun Chaudhry suggested that Khan was drawn to her spiritual qualities. Despite his playboy image in the 1990s during his cricket career, Khan expressed a keen interest in Sufism.
Khan's two prior marriages, to Jemima Goldsmith and television journalist Reham Nayyar Khan, ended in divorce. Since his ousting from power in a 2022 parliamentary vote of no-confidence, Khan has faced numerous legal battles, alleging a military-backed crackdown against him and his party. He contends that his removal was orchestrated by the powerful military, with whom he had a falling out during his tenure. The military, however, denies these allegations.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the anti-graft agency prosecuting Khan, has previously investigated, tried, and incarcerated all prime ministers who served since 2008, including Nawaz Sharif, whose party is considered the frontrunner in the upcoming election.