Former Pakistan prime minister and 1992 ODI World Cup-winning captain Imran Khan has been sentenced to 14 years in prison. The case, known in Pakistan as the Toshakhana reference, has to do with selling gifts he was given in his capacity as prime minister without declaring proceeds for tax purposes. His wife Bushra Bibi, too, was convicted and sentenced to a 14-year prison term.
Imran has also been fined PKR 787 million (US$2.9m approx.). While he was already banned from running for any political office for five years, it has now been extended to ten years.
The conviction and sentencing came a day after Imran was sentenced to ten years in jail on a separate charge – he was already serving a three-year prison term since last August. While that sentence, which also related to selling state gifts in what the court ruled were corrupt practices, was later suspended, Imran was not released from prison. His current 14-year sentence will run concurrently with his ten-year term, as is the standard practice in Pakistan.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), the party Imran founded and led to power in Pakistan’s most recent general elections, said the proceedings “exposed a complete disregard of law by a trial court”, and that “such a sham trial belonged to the dustbin”.
Imran’s legal troubles have only snowballed since he was removed as prime minister after a no-confidence vote in April 2022, with over a hundred cases registered against him. However, this is the first time the legal system has also sentenced his wife to a jail term. Unlike Imran, she had not been incarcerated earlier.
Their sentencing came amid a state crackdown against Imran. With general elections due in Pakistan in eight days, the PTI has been banned from contesting altogether. Political rallies organised by them have been dispersed and shut down by authorities. A rally in Karachi earlier this week was halted by police, who fired tear gas and detained dozens of PTI workers. For months, there was even a de facto ban on mentioning Imran’s name on Pakistani TV, according to reports.
In the past few months, when the PTI attempted to host virtual or online fundraisers, there were nationwide internet blackouts that coincide with the timing of the events. Authorities, however, have claimed the two were unrelated.
The International Federation for Human Rights, in a statement after the ten-year sentence was announced on Tuesday, said its findings revealed “a disturbing disregard for the basic principles of justice and due process” after he was denied access to his chosen counsel, which they termed “a flagrant violation of rights enshrined in international law”.
Opinion polling in the lead-up to the elections has been non-existent, but the most recent independent polls have shown Imran to be the most popular politician in the country. When he was arrested by paramilitary security forces in May 2023, violent uprisings took place throughout the country that led to an internet blackout that lasted several days; thousands of his political supporters were also arrested at the time.
There was no immediate statement from Imran or his lawyers following the sentence, though they are expected to appeal.
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