Double setback: Imran Khan and wife sentenced to 14 years for corruption

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Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan (right) ad his wife Bushra Bibi

PAKISTAN, Jan 31: In a startling turn of events, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife, Bushra Bibi, have been sentenced to 14 years in prison. This follows a separate 10-year sentence handed down the previous day, marking a double setback for the prominent political figure just a week before the country’s scheduled elections, from which he is barred.

Khan, ousted from the prime ministerial role in 2022, is already serving a three-year jail term for corruption, vehemently claiming that the cases against him are politically motivated. The latest court ruling revolves around accusations of illegal profiteering from the sale of state gifts, including a jewelry set from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Tuesday’s case, for which Khan received a 10-year sentence, pertained to leaking classified state documents.

While it is speculated that the two sentences will run concurrently, official confirmation is pending. The court has also imposed a substantial fine of approximately 1.5 billion rupees (£4.2m; $5.3m) on the couple.

Furthermore, the sentencing carries political repercussions, as Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party stated that their leader will be disqualified from political activities for a decade. Khan’s legal team has announced plans to appeal both cases to Pakistan’s High Court.

Imran Khan, a former cricket star, has been in detention since August, mostly held at Adiala jail in Rawalpindi. His wife, Bushra Bibi, surrendered to authorities on Wednesday after being out on remand. The couple, married in 2018 just months before Khan’s election as prime minister, denies all accusations brought forth by Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog.

Criticism has mounted against the judicial process, with Khan’s lawyers asserting that the trials occurred under duress in what they describe as “kangaroo courts.” They argue that the judiciary is being “dismantled,” alleging a lack of proper proceedings.

Amidst the legal battles, the PTI accuses authorities of sidelining their party and candidates, raising concerns about the credibility of the upcoming elections. Many of the PTI’s leaders are either behind bars or have defected, with candidates now running as independents. The party has also been stripped of its cricket bat symbol, crucial for voters in a country with low literacy rates.

As the political landscape undergoes significant shifts, Nawaz Sharif, a three-time former Prime Minister, emerges as a potential frontrunner in the upcoming elections. Sharif, previously jailed for corruption in 2018, returned from self-imposed exile, and now, some believe he is the preferred choice of the Pakistani military establishment, while Khan, once seen as close to the military, has fallen out of favor.

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