Imran Khan: Former Pakistan PM and wife Bushra Bibi jailed for corruption

Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi have been jailed for 14 years, the second sentence handed to Pakistan’s former prime minister in two days.

The two sentences come just a week before the South Asian country is due to hold an election in which he is barred from standing.

Khan, who was ousted as PM by his opponents in 2022, is already serving a three-year jail term for corruption.

He has said the numerous cases against him are politically motivated.

Wednesday’s court case revolved around accusations over state gifts that he and his wife received while in office, while Tuesday’s case – for which he was sentenced to 10 years – for leaking classified state documents. It is thought the two sentences will run concurrently, although that has not been confirmed.

The court has also ordered the couple to pay a fine of about 1.5 billion rupees (£4.2m; $5.3m).

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party also said that the sentencing further bans their leader from future political work: he will be disqualified for 10 years from holding public office.

Khan’s lawyers said they would be launching an appeal to Pakistan’s High Court in both cases.

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The former premier and international cricket star has been detained since last August when he was arrested, serving time mostly at Adiala jail in Rawalpindi.

His wife Bushra Bibi, who had been out on remand, surrendered at the jail on Wednesday. She has typically kept a low profile during their period in office. The two married in 2018, months before Khan was elected prime minister.

Both had strongly denied the accusations brought against them by Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog that they had sold or kept state gifts received in office for personal profit. Such gifts included a jewellery set from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

A man reads Dawn newspaper at a news stand
Image caption,
News of Tuesday’s sentence dominated Pakistan’s front pages on Wednesday
The PTI has described the cases against Khan as bogus, arguing the trials occurred under duress in “kangaroo courts”, where proceedings have been rushed. It said Wednesday’s case heralded “another sad day in our judicial system history”, alleging the judiciary was being “dismantled”.

“No cross questioning allowed, no final argument concluded and decision pops up like a pre-determined process in play,” it alleged.

Khan’s lawyers have also said he wasn’t given a chance to defend himself in a trial that moved more quickly than expected. The judge also read out the verdicts while neither Khan, Bibi or their legal team were in the courtroom, reporters at the scene said.

Meanwhile, Khan’s sister, Aleema Khan, told the BBC outside Adiala jail that there was confusion over what time the case was supposed to start.

Khan is yet to comment on Wednesday’s verdict, which came a day after a judge found him guilty of revealing a classified document and damaging diplomatic relations. Khan told his followers on Tuesday to “take revenge for every injustice with your vote on February 8 while remaining peaceful” in a statement released on his X (formerly Twitter) account.

Even before these sentences were handed down, many were already questioning the credibility of the election next Thursday given the extent to which Khan and his party have been sidelined.

The authorities deny carrying out a crackdown on PTI, but many of its leaders are now behind bars or have defected. Its candidates are standing as independents and many are on the run.

Thousands of the party’s supporters were rounded up after protests – at times violent – when Khan was taken into custody last May.

The party has also been stripped of its cricket bat symbol, essential in a country with low literacy rates to allow voters to choose where to mark their ballots.

The man tipped to win is three-time former PM Nawaz Sharif, who returned from self-imposed exile in the autumn. He was a thorn in the side of the powerful military for much of his long career and was jailed for corruption ahead of the 2018 election that Imran Khan won.

Now many believe he is currently preferred by the Pakistan military establishment, while Khan – who used to be seen as close to the military – has fallen out of favour.

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