Imran Khan receives second conviction in just two days

Pakistan’s former prime minister, Imran Khan, faces a tumultuous legal ordeal with a second conviction in as many days, this time being sentenced along his wife.

Imran Khan and his spouse, Bushra Bibi, have been sentenced to 14 years in prison, marking the second legal verdict against Pakistan’s former prime minister within a two-day span.

The conviction relates to allegations of illicitly benefiting from state gifts, surfacing just a week ahead of a general election in which Khan is disqualified from participating. Khan, deposed as PM by opponents in 2022, is already serving a three-year term for corruption, vehemently asserting that the charges are politically motivated.

The recent court proceedings centered on accusations surrounding state gifts received during Khan’s tenure. Tuesday’s sentencing, for a 10-year term, stemmed from leaking classified state documents. While it is presumed that the sentences will run concurrently, this has not been officially confirmed.

The court has additionally mandated the couple to pay a fine of approximately 1.5 billion rupees (£4.2m; $5.3m). Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party stated that this sentencing further disqualifies him from engaging in future political activities, imposing a 10-year ban on holding public office.

In response, Khan’s legal team has declared its intention to appeal to Pakistan’s High Court for both cases. The former premier, also known for his international cricket career, has been in custody since August, primarily at Adiala jail in Rawalpindi.

Bushra Bibi, who had been on remand, surrendered at the jail on Wednesday. The couple married in 2018, shortly before Khan assumed office.

In the Toshakhana (state treasury) case, both Khan and Bibi vehemently denied the charges brought by Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog, asserting that state gifts received in office were neither sold nor retained for personal profit. PTI contends that the cases are baseless, characterizing the trials as occurring in expedited and biased “kangaroo courts.” The party argues that Khan was not afforded a fair chance to defend himself, with reports indicating that neither Khan nor Bibi were present in the courtroom during the sentencing.

PTI has criticized the judiciary, alleging a dismantling of the system and describing the decision as a pre-determined process. However, Pakistan’s judiciary maintains its independence.

Experts, including Dr. Farzana Shaikh from Chatham House’s Asia-Pacific program, speculate on the timing of the sentences, suggesting that it could prevent Khan’s participation in the upcoming election. Others believe it may serve as an attempt to demoralize his supporters, a gamble that could potentially backfire by energizing Khan’s base.

Khan, in a statement released on social media, urged his followers to vote peacefully on February 8, portraying it as a means of seeking justice. Questions about the credibility of the election were raised even before the recent sentences, given the perceived sidelining of Khan and his party. Many observers anticipate a victory for three-time former PM Nawaz Sharif, currently viewed as favored by the military establishment, while Khan’s relationship with the military appears to have deteriorated.

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