In a surprising development, Imran Khan, the prime minister and former captain of Pakistan’s cricket team, was found guilty for the third time this week and was sentenced to seven years in prison. The most recent ruling concerns his marriage to Bushra Bibi, his present spouse, and raises concerns regarding the date of their wedding following Bibi’s prior divorce.
The court determined that the marriage was invalid because there was a question as to whether it occurred during Bibi’s iddat period, which Pakistani and Islamic law impose before a woman can remarry after a divorce. In court, the highly intimate nature of Imran Khan and Bibi’s relationship was examined, with specifics like menstrual cycles being used to establish the iddat period.
The lawsuit, which was started in 2023 by Bibi’s ex-husband, Khawar Fareed Maneka, gained traction at the same time that Imran’s legal issues became more serious. In a surprising turn of events, Maneka had earlier in 2018 published a video in which she cleared Imran of any involvement in their split.
Imran Khan and Bibi were both given seven years in prison and PKR 500,000 in fines.
Bibi, who was previously involved in the Toshakhana case, was incarcerated while serving her sentence. It’s unclear how this additional conviction will affect her standing.
This latest sentence underscores the worsening relationship between Imran and the state, even though it is served simultaneously with Imran’s recent convictions. Imran Khan’s political organization, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), denounced the decision, claiming that Imran and his begum were denied the opportunity to stand in their own defense.
“How many individuals must fall before one person is brought down? Witnesses were not permitted to testify in this case, nor were Imran Khan and his begum Bibi given the opportunity to defend themselves. When this case gets to higher courts, PTI, as cited by ESPN Cricinfo, claims that this verdict will be overturned and thrown in the trash in a matter of minutes.
Human rights concerns and election limits surround the legal unrest around the lawyer’s criticism of the ruling.
Declaring that the verdict was “shameless and baseless,” Imran’s attorney promised to appeal. Days before Pakistan’s elections, which Imran Khan and the PTI are not allowed to participate in, this setback happened. Police raids, internet outages, and a prohibition on discussing Imran’s name on television have all occurred during political rallies.
The International Federation for Human Rights condemned the convictions, citing a “disregard for basic principles of justice and due process.” Despite this, Imran continues to enjoy a high level of popularity, according to recent independent surveys, casting doubt on the impartiality of the legal actions taken against him.
The country is keeping a careful eye on Imran’s court struggles, waiting to see how the appeals turn out and thinking about the wider consequences for Pakistan’s political scene.