Islamabad | Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi were sentenced on Wednesday to 14 years of rigorous imprisonment in a corruption case, dealing another blow to the jailed leader, a day after he was handed a 10-year jail term for leaking sensitive state secrets.
The verdict by an accountability court, which comes eight days before the February 8 general elections, has added to the legal woes of the 71-year-old cricketer-turned-politician who is already serving a three-year jail term after being convicted of corruption in another case.
Khan's party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) faced numerous troubles before the election starting with the denial of its election symbol, the cricket bat, to the rejection of nomination papers of Khan, former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and several other party leaders.
Accountability Court Judge Mohammad Bashir conducted the hearing at Rawalpindi's Adiala Jail, where the former premier is incarcerated.
In the Toshakhana corruption case, he was accused of retaining expensive state gifts they received during his tenure as Pakistan's premier.
Khan and his wife were also barred from holding any public office for 10 years and slapped with a fine of Rs 787 million each. Bushra Bibi, 49, did not appear before the court on Wednesday.
At the outset of the hearing, Judge Bashir asked Khan if he recorded his statement.
To this, the former premier said that he would submit his statement once his lawyers came.
"I have been deceived as I was only called to mark my attendance for the hearing," Khan said.
Following the verdict, Bushra Bibi arrived at the Adiala jail and surrendered before the authorities.
“Why are you in a hurry? Even yesterday, the conviction was announced in haste,” the ex-prime minister said, referring to the verdict in the cipher case a day earlier.
“My lawyers are not here yet. I will submit the statement after showing it to them when they come,” Imran said, adding that he had appeared before the court only to mark his attendance.
He then exited the courtroom, after which the court sentenced the ex-premier and his wife in absentia.
The judge in the case had also convicted another former premier Nawaz Sharif in July 2018 ahead of elections.
Reacting to the verdict, PTI's current chief Gohar Khan said the judgment only served to lower the respect of the judiciary.
“The accused were not given time and the process was hurried to conclude the trial,” he said, adding that the defence was not given the right of cross-examination.
“Complete destruction of every existing law in Pakistan in 2 days. Imran Khan and Bushra Bibi have faced yet another kangaroo trial in which no right to defence was given to both. Like cipher, this case has no basis to stand in any Higher court. It's shameful how a complete disregard and mockery of law is in place," PTI said in a post on X.
Separately, the PTI in a statement said that these decisions, reached in haste, cannot impact the fervour, any PTI supporter talks of, around election time.
It alleged that the star witness was changed and a witness who's a part-time worker did an evaluation of gifts by showing photos, while no cross-questioning was allowed, no final argument concluded and decision popped up like a predetermined process in play.
“This ridiculous decision will also be challenged,” the party announced.
Last month, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) filed a fresh case against the two in an accountability court for retaining a jewellery set which included necklaces, earrings, bracelets and a ring worth Rs 1.57 billion received from the Saudi crown prince against undervalued assessment.
Khan and Bushra had only paid Rs 9 million and had fixed the price of the jewellery set through a private firm, reports said.
The sentence comes just a day after a special court established under the Official Secrets Act sentenced Khan and Qureshi to 10 years in prison for the breach of state secrets.
The latest conviction and sentencing are Khan's third since 2022 when he was ousted from power.
Previously, Khan was convicted in the Toshakhana case on August 5, and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. The Islamabad High Court (IHC) later suspended his sentence, however, a division bench later rejected Khan's petition seeking the suspension of the conviction.
The previous Toshakhana case was filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan in the charges of hiring the sale of state gifts.
According to reports, Khan and his wife received 108 gifts from various heads of state, out of which they kept 58 gifts. They were also undervalued by them while paying a mandatory price to the state.
Under the rules governing Toshakhana - a Persian word meaning "treasure house" - government officials can keep gifts by paying a price for them but first the gift should be deposited. The two either failed to deposit the gift or got it for a low price by allegedly using their authority.
Reacting to the verdict, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) in a social media statement said that “fake Sadiq and Ameen” was “proved to be a certified Toshakhana thief in front of the world today”.
The party's jibe referred to an old case in which the Supreme Court had declared Khan as Sadiq (righteous) and Amin (trustworthy).
On the other hand, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) termed the notification of Khan's jail trial in Toshakhana and the 190 million pound settlement cases as valid.
The court also dismissed the PTI founder's petitions against the jail trial in the cases filed by the NAB.
The jail trial was held because of the threats to the life of the petitioner, adding that it was not "malice".
IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Tariq Jahangiri issued a detailed verdict while also rejecting the petitioner's objection over the appointment of the accountability judge.