Pakistan ex-PM Imran Khan, wife get 7 years for unlawful marriage

It is the third adverse ruling against the embattled former prime minister this week and comes ahead of national elections on Thursday that he is barred from contesting

Published : 3 Feb 2024, 11:53 AM
Updated : 3 Feb 2024, 11:53 AM

Pakistan former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Khan were sentenced to seven years in prison and fined on Saturday by a court that ruled their 2018 marriage violated the law, his party said.

It was the third adverse ruling against the embattled former prime minister this week and comes ahead of national elections on Thursday that he is barred from contesting.

The jailed Khan, 71, has in recent days been sentenced to 10 years for leaking state secrets and 14 years along with this wife for illegally selling state gifts.

"After hours of rushed hearings at court, no cross examination of witnesses, and no due process - a mockery of the law," Khan's party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), said in a statement.

"With the way these trials are being conducted, there will be a huge question mark on the February 8th elections. This is a test case for Pakistan's higher judiciary."

The two were each fined 500,000 rupees ($1,800), ARY News reported.

Bushra was accused of not completing the waiting period mandated by Islam, called "Iddat", after divorcing her previous husband and marrying Khan.

The Khans signed their marriage contract, called a "Nikkah", in January 2018 in a secret ceremony seven months before the charismatic former cricket superstar became prime minister for the first time.

There was controversy over whether they had wed before the period was complete. After initial denials of the January marriage, PTI confirmed it weeks later.

The Khans both denied any wrongdoing.

"Can say I’m a witness in the Nikkah and it’s a categorically yet another fake case," Khan's media advisor Zulfi Bukhari told Reuters. "From witnesses to the evidence to the procedure."

Khan is in prison in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, while his wife had been allowed to serve her sentence at their hilltop mansion in Islamabad.

He already faces a 10-year disqualification from holding public office. It was not immediately clear if the sentences would run concurrently or sequentially.

Bushra's ex-husband, Khawar Maneka, to whom she was married for about 30 years, brought a criminal complaint against the Khans, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

Khan, 71, has often called Bushra his spiritual leader. She is known for her devotion to Sufism, a mystical form of Islam.

Born Bushra Riaz Watto, she changed her name to Khan after her marriage. Her husband and followers commonly refer to her as Bushra Bibi or Bushra Begum, titles that denote respect in Urdu.

It was not clear when or how Khan met Bushra, but former aide Aun Chaudhry said Khan was impressed with her spirituality.

Khan, who had acquired a playboy image in the 1990s as his cricket career took off, has said he was keenly interested in Sufism.

Khan's two previous marriages ended in divorce - to Jemima Goldsmith, daughter of business tycoon James Goldsmith, and television journalist Reham Nayyar Khan.