Imran Khan is only still in jail thanks to ‘weak’ case over marriage to his wife, his party says

Pakistan’s former chief Imran Khan married his present spouse Bushra Bibi simply months earlier than he ascended to the premiership of the nation in 2018, making it the favored cricketer-turned-politician’s third marriage after two divorces.

He couldn’t have identified on the time that, six years later, the process and timings surrounding that marriage ceremony can be the only motive he stays behind bars, having been ousted as prime minister in a vote of no confidence after which pursued by the authorities with some 170 legal costs.

Khan has since been acquitted or granted bail on most of the most severe of these costs – all of which Khan says are politically motivated. The newest instance of this got here simply final week, when Khan was acquitted of exposing state secrets and techniques for publicly revealing a diplomatic cable at a political rally in 2022.

That ruling meant that the only offence on Khan’s prolonged cost listing maintaining him in jail was a ruling from February this 12 months that his marriage to Bibi, 49, in 2018 was un-Islamic and unlawful. The decide in the case fined them PKR500,000 (£1,420) and sentenced each to seven years in jail.

“It’s the weakest out of all the cases that was put [against him],” says Syed Zulfikar Bukhari, a detailed aide of Khan and considered one of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party’s most senior officers not being held in jail himself.

“All of them were weak but this was especially weak,” Bukhari tells The Independent. “He is in jail now just because he married his wife.”

Bibi’s ex-husband Khawar Maneka alleges her marriage to Khan violated Muslim household legislation. According to Islamic legislation, a Muslim widow or a divorcee has to abide by the “iddat” – a ready interval earlier than they will lawfully enter into a brand new marriage.

According to the Quran, a menstruating lady should observe three month-to-month cycles earlier than remarriage, whereas a non-menstruating lady should wait for 3 lunar months. For widows, the required delay is 4 months and 10 days. These guidelines are aimed toward eliminating any uncertainty concerning paternity if a girl turns into pregnant shortly earlier than her separation from her partner or his demise.

During each the listening to and in its last ruling, a Pakistani court docket extensively scrutinised Bibi’s menstrual cycle particulars – finally dismissing her assertion that three cycles had elapsed between her divorce and subsequent marriage to Khan. The court docket accepted the testimony of Maneka who alleged in any other case. Bibi has claimed beforehand that Maneka divorced her in April 2017 and that she married Khan on 1 January 2018.

The Dawn newspaper reported in November final 12 months that Maneka stated he “half-heartedly” divorced Bibi on 14 November 2017, and had reconciliation in thoughts earlier than February 2018 however the “untimely nikah (Muslim marriage ceremony ceremony) throughout iddat” between Bibi and Khan “frustrated his plans”.

“The cases even before were a joke. Others [cases in which Mr Khan was imprisoned] have been thrown out by the court of law. And those were considered by the opposition as cases with substance,” Bukhari says.

The court docket judgment was criticised in Pakistan by members of the civil society, ladies activists, and attorneys as a “blow to women’s right to dignity and privacy”. There had been additionally protests in opposition to the ruling party in opposition to the “state’s intrusion into people’s private lives”.

It’s a “bogus case of political victimisation”, stated one other senior PTI official, Gohar Ali Khan, on the time. Khan has typically referred to as Bibi his non secular chief for her devotion to Sufism, a mystical type of Islam.

Khan married Jemima Goldsmith in 1995 on the peak of his cricketing profession, with whom he had two sons earlier than they divorced after 9 years. His second marriage, to journalist and former BBC climate presenter Reham Khan in 2015, ended in lower than a 12 months.

Bukhari alleges that the actions taken in opposition to Khan and his party by the authorities had been strategically timed to create a public notion of the political irrelevance of each.

“It was done to try to convey, or put a narrative across to the public that Imran Khan or his party is no more for the next 35 years,” he says. However, “that narrative was unsuccessful because people familiar with politics and Imran Khan, as well as the general public, did not accept it, which influenced the way they voted”.

Independent candidates ended up successful 101 seats out of the full of 265, adopted by Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML) with 75, and Bilawal Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) 54.

Shehbaz Sharif – Nawaz’s brother – from the PML returned as prime minister in an election human rights activists and political specialists extensively criticised as one of many least credible in Pakistan’s historical past.

The elections had been additionally marked by the absence of PTI and Khan. Pakistan’s Supreme Court rejected a bid by PTI to preserve its conventional electoral image, a cricket bat. Khan’s party, identified for its strained relations with the army, confronted rising strain from an army-backed crackdown main up to the 8 February vote. The unbiased candidates supporting Khan contested the elections below their very own particular person symbols.

The Sharif authorities denies unfairly targetting the opposition party, and says legal instances in opposition to PTI activists largely stem from the violent protests that erupted when Khan was first arrested in May final 12 months, throughout which various army services had been attacked. The authorities accused Khan of “instigating violence” and referred to as his rioting supporters “arsonists” exhibiting “enmity against the motherland”.

But Bukhari says the pre-election crackdown on PTI has continued, effectively over a 12 months after these protests befell.

“There’s a massive crackdown, especially against our social media team and social media activists. The biggest fear that they [the establishment] have is social media because that cannot be contained. So there’s a serious crackdown against social media activists and their families,” he says.

Bukhari cites situations of what he calls “abductions” by the authorities, together with that of PTI’s social media lead Azhar Mashwani and two of his brothers. He claims they’ve been lacking for about 5 to six days.

The Lahore High Court on 7 June directed the Punjab inspector normal of police to get better Mashwani’s brothers after they had been seemingly picked up by legislation enforcement companies, in accordance to the Dawn.

Bukhari additionally alleges that the brother of Shahbaz Gill, Imran Khan’s former chief of workers, has been detained by the nation’s safety forces. Bukhari says it is “astonishing that now the family members who are not involved in activism” are being focused. The authorities in 2022 had arrested Gill for sedition and inciting the general public in opposition to state establishments.

The identical 12 months Pakistan’s parliament ousted Khan with a no-confidence movement.

When the decision on the “illegal” marriage case got here out in February, there have been protests throughout the nation. “It’s a girl’s physique and only she will be able to let you know what occurred together with her, when she was on her interval, when she was pregnant. This is why we preserve saying ‘mera jism, meri marzi (my physique, my selection)’,” activist Farzana Bari stated on the time.

In an official assertion, Aurat March Islamabad, an activist group, additionally demanded that the choice be overruled “as failure to do so will establish a precedent that could be exploited by a judiciary itself that is historically inclined towards anti-women rulings”.

Out of 4 instances the place Khan was convicted earlier than the nationwide elections in Pakistan, his sentences in two had been suspended pending appeals.

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