An accountability court on Wednesday sentenced both former prime minister Imran Khan and his wife, ex-first lady Bushra Bibi, to 14 years’ rigorous imprisonment in the Toshakhana case, while also imposing fines of Rs. 787 million each on them.
The verdict, delivered on a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) reference, also disqualifies the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder from contesting public office for the next 10 years.
The sentencing comes just a day after Khan—along with PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi—was sentenced to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment in the cipher case for breaching state secrets and using a classified document for political gains. It also comes just eight days before general elections on Feb. 8, which the PTI’s candidates are contesting as independents after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) withdrew the party’s electoral symbol over contested intra-party elections.
Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir announced the verdict at Adiala Jail after directing Khan to record his statement under Section 342 of the Pakistan Penal Code. During today’s proceedings, neither Khan nor Bushra’s lawyers appeared in court, while the former first lady was also not in attendance when the ruling was issued. She reached Adiala Jail to submit herself for arrest roughly an hour after the verdict was announced.
As proceedings commenced, the judge directed jail staff to produce Khan, who appeared before the judge and requested additional time to wait for his lawyers. To this, Judge Bashir expressed displeasure, saying the PTI founder had repeatedly sought to delay proceedings and would not countenance any further “waste” of the court’s time. He then directed Khan to record his statement under Section 342, to which the former prime minister said he had written it but wished to discuss it with his lawyers before submitting it. Khan then expressed anger over the proceedings and returned to his cell, subsequently refusing to return to the courtroom for his sentencing.
PTI leader Gohar Khan vowed to challenge the decision at the Islamabad High Court, claiming no accountability court had given such a decision in the past. “[Politicians] are being punished to please a leader,” he alleged, regretting the court did not allow cross-examination. He also defended Bushra Bibi, maintaining she had nothing to do with the case, as she did not take any gifts personally.
“Bushra Bibi has been sentenced to pressure the PTI founder and our right to defend has also been abrogated,” he claimed. He also reiterated his calls for PTI supporters to remain calm and hopeful. “We will participate in the elections,” he added.
Pending since last year, Khan and his wife were indicted in the Toshakhana reference filed by NAB on Jan. 9. According to the charge-sheet against Khan and Bushra, they retained 58 of 108 gifts received from different heads of states during his tenure as the prime minister and paid “throwaway” prices for them to the state. It further alleges that Bushra retained an expensive jewelry set in violation of Toshakhana rules.
During proceedings, the prosecution summoned two senior Army officers, including the ex-military secretary to the former premier; private appraiser Sohaib Abbasi; Toshakhana section officers Benaymin and Nida Rehman; NAB Additional Director Qaiser Mehmood; State Bank of Pakistan Joint Director Sajid Khan; Assistant Secretary Protocol Zahid Sarfraz Azam; Principal Appraiser Azeem Manzoor; Appraiser Rabia Samad; Deputy Consulate General at Dubai Rahimullah; Counselor Attache Irfan Rafaqat; Mohsin Habib, administrative assistant at the Dubai Consulate; former private secretary Syed Inamullah Shah; Magistrate Mohammad Abdullah; and NAB officials Mohsin Haroon, Mustansar Imam Shah, and Hasnain Mustafa.
In various interactions with media during the Adiala Jail proceedings, Khan had claimed he was being victimized for “reining in powerful quarters.” He also claimed one of the witnesses against him was an office boy and questioned how he would commit mass corruption through such avenues.