Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi were sentenced to 14 years in jail in the Toshakhana case. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) filed a new reference against them, accusing them of “retaining a jewelry set received from the Saudi crown prince at an undervalued assessment.”
The verdict, delivered just eight days before the February 8 general elections, adds to the challenges facing the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party amid a state crackdown and the absence of an electoral symbol. This comes just one day following another sentencing of Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to 10 years in prison for allegedly “disclosing state secrets”.
Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir presided over the hearing at Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail, where former Prime Minister Imran Khan is currently held. During the hearing, Imran and Bushra were both sentenced to 14 years in jail, fined Rs787 million, and banned from holding any public office for 10 years. While Imran Khan was present, his wife did not appear in court.
The judge had previously closed the opportunity for cross-examination of prosecution witnesses and directed Imran and Bushra to record their statements under Section 342 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Under Section 342, the judge has the authority to pose questions to an accused individual regarding the case after the prosecution witnesses have been examined but before the accused is called upon for their defense.
In a previous hearing related to the Cipher case, Bushra Bibi provided her statement in the Toshakhana case, while Imran Khan could not do so.
During that session, Imran’s legal team sought the court’s permission to reinstate the right of cross-examination, but Judge Bashir rejected the request. Imran had requested the court to allow his lawyers to cross-examine three crucial witnesses in the case, including an appraiser and the military secretary.
Nevertheless, Amjad Pervaiz, the special prosecutor for NAB, contended that Khan switched legal representatives nine times within a couple of weeks. The ninth lawyer, instead of conducting a cross-examination of the witnesses, requested additional time, as per Prevaiz.
The big picture
Imran Khan, removed through a no-confidence vote in April 2022, is currently serving a three-year prison term in an alleged corruption case. This development unfolds ahead of the parliamentary elections set for February 8, where Khan is disqualified from running.
Despite being deemed “ineligible” for the February election, Khan retains significant political influence due to his widespread support and anti-establishment stance. Khan affirms that the legal proceedings against him are a scheme to sideline him before the vote.
Following Khan’s arrest in May 2023, Pakistan witnessed violent protests, amid a crackdown against his supporters and party.
It is worth noting that the independent human rights commission in Pakistan has recently raised concerns about the likelihood of a fair parliamentary election next month, citing “pre-poll rigging”. It has also expressed worry over the rejection of candidacies, including Khan and senior members of his party.
The document, known as Cipher, has not been publicly disclosed by the government or Khan’s lawyers but is purportedly diplomatic correspondence between the Pakistani Ambassador to Washington and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad.
The allegations against Khan originated when he revealed a confidential document during a rally, emphasizing it as evidence of threats and asserting a US conspiracy in his ousting.