Pakistan court rejects appeals by Imran Khan & wife to suspend sentence in illegal marriage case

Imran Khan
Imran Khan

Islamabad | A Pakistani court on Thursday rejected the appeals of Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi to suspend their sentences in the illegal marriage case, in a major setback to the embattled former prime minister who was hoping to be released from jail.

On February 3 - days before the general elections on February 8 - an Islamabad court convicted the couple based on a complaint filed by Bushra Bibi’s ex-husband, Khawar Fareed Maneka, who alleged that they contracted marriage during the former first lady’s Iddat period.

In Islam, a woman can't remarry before completing four months after divorce or the death of a husband.

In his plea, Maneka urged the court to declare the marriage null and void.

Additional District and Sessions Judge Afzal Majoka had reserved the verdict on the conclusion of the process on Tuesday after conducting the hearing.

On Thursday, as he announced the verdict to a packed courtroom, and rejected the pleas filed by the couple, it dashed hopes of their release from the Adiala Jail at Rawalpindi where they have been imprisoned.

In its 10-page order, the court said there was no reason to suspend the sentence.

"...[there is] no ground for suspension of [the] sentence is available to both the petitioners. Accordingly, both the petitions under section 426 Cr.PC are dismissed," it said.

Khan, 71, has been behind bars since August last year after he was sentenced in the Toshakhana corruption case and subsequently sentenced in other cases ahead of the February 8 elections.

The Toshakhana corruption case sentence was suspended in April while earlier this month, Khan was acquitted in the cipher case. Therefore, both Imran and Bushra now remain incarcerated at Adiala Jail in the Iddat case only.

Following the verdict, PTI workers began protesting outside the district and sessions court and also blocked the road.

Reacting to the verdict, National Assembly opposition leader Omar Ayub said Khan’s party would challenge the order in the Islamabad High Court.

Speaking to the media, he reiterated that there would be no talks with the government until all Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders and workers are released.

Khan’s party termed the development “absolutely ridiculous”.

In a post on its official X account, the PTI said the case was “unprecedentedly despicable in both our country’s as well as Islamic history”, and had been “globally condemned and brought immense embarrassment to Pakistan”.

“Every single individual responsible for fabricating and carrying this case will go down in the dirtiest, darkest alleys of history,” it asserted.

PTI spokesperson Raoof Hasan on Thursday strongly reacted to the verdict, terming it a sheer injustice and a blatant display of total disregard for justice.

Hasan said Khan and Bushra would immediately approach the Islamabad High Court against Afzal Majoka's shameful judgement in the "fabricated, baseless and fake case", clearly reflecting injustice and vengeance from each word and sentence of the ruling.

He lamented that Pakistan has completely been under fascist rule with the country’s justice system at the mercy of "state rogues and rascals", indirectly referring to the military establishment.

Hasan stated that the abhorrent case had been used as a justification to keep Imran Khan and his wife in jail, which was evident from the flagrant violation of law and justice in the case at each step since day one.

Earlier, the former first couple had challenged the conviction before the district and sessions judge (ADSJ) Shahrukh Arjumand, who recused himself at a time when the hearing had been concluded and the court was supposed to announce the verdict.

The case was last week transferred to ADSJ Majoka and the Islamabad High Court ordered the sessions court to decide in 10 days.

The couple had married in 2018, the year Khan went on to win elections and become prime minister. Bushra was ostensibly his spiritual guide, but the two developed affection for each other during their meetings. She got a divorce from her husband of 28 years, with whom she had five children.

Bushra is the third wife of Khan, a former cricketing hero, who during his heydays of sporting career had a playboy reputation.

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