Appeal rejected: Imran Khan and Bushra Bibi to remain in jail

The Islamabad court has rejected an appeal by former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife, Bushra Bibi, to suspend a February ruling that deemed their 2018 marriage in violation of Islamic law. The court’s decision on Thursday ensures that both remain imprisoned.

The seven-year sentence, announced on February 3, came just five days before Pakistan’s general elections and followed two other convictions against Khan, both of which have since been overturned. The case, initiated by Bushra Bibi’s former husband, Khawar Maneka, claimed that she did not observe the mandated three-month waiting period after her divorce before marrying Khan. Maneka alleged the divorce occurred in November 2017, while Khan announced his marriage to Bibi in February 2018, months prior to his election as prime minister.

The couple has filed multiple appeals against the conviction, seeking its suspension. Another appeal to annul the February conviction is expected to be heard from July 2.

Sayed Zulfiqar Bukhari, a senior leader of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and close aide, described Thursday’s ruling as a “sad day for the judiciary.” “The hatred of a few is adamant to destroy all institutions for it. Dismissing the appeal shows that there is nothing on Imran Khan and his wife except this outrageous case,” Bukhari stated. He further criticized the case as “disgusting at all levels” and questioned whether the current administration wants to be remembered for imprisoning Khan and his wife on what he called a “fake marriage case.”

Omar Ayub Khan, another senior PTI leader and member of parliament, condemned the court’s decision and announced plans to file an appeal. In a statement on Wednesday, the party warned that Khan’s continued imprisonment could spark a new political crisis in the country.

“The former prime minister has been imprisoned for 11 months, during which he has been acquitted or granted bail in 18 different cases,” the PTI stated.

Rana Sanaullah, a top leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) party, recently accused Khan of sowing chaos in the country.

Khan and his wife previously received a separate 14-year sentence related to the illegal sale of state gifts, which was overturned by the Islamabad High Court in April. Khan also faced a 10-year sentence for leaking state secrets alongside former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, but that verdict was overturned earlier this month. Despite these acquittals, Khan remains incarcerated due to the unlawful marriage conviction.

In May, the Islamabad High Court granted Khan bail in a high-profile land deal case involving real estate tycoon Malik Riaz, where Khan was accused of causing a $239 million loss to the national exchequer in a quid pro quo arrangement.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif recently accused certain judges of favoring Khan, stating, “While many judges are patriotic, a few black sheep facilitated Imran Khan’s million corruption.” Khan, who was in power from August 2018 until April 2022, was removed through a no-confidence vote in parliament, which he claimed was part of a United States-led conspiracy involving Pakistan’s powerful military—a charge both parties have denied.

Following his removal, Khan and his PTI party have faced a severe crackdown, which intensified after his brief arrest in May 2023. Protests erupted demanding his release, leading to thousands of arrests and over 100 trials in military courts.

The PTI also faced difficulties in the February elections, being barred from using its electoral symbol and with Khan declared ineligible to participate due to his imprisonment. Despite these challenges, PTI-backed candidates won 93 seats, becoming the largest bloc but opting to stay in opposition rather than collaborate with political rivals.

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