Imran has also been fined PKR 787 million (US $2.9m approx). While he was already banned from running for political office for five years, this has now been extended to ten years.
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 Bibi to a jail term. Unlike Imran, she had not been incarcerated earlier.
Their sentencing comes amid a heavy-handed state crackdown against the former Pakistan cricketer. With general elections due in Pakistan in eight days, the PTI has been banned from running altogether. Political rallies organised by them have been dispersed and shut down by authorities. A rally in Karachi was forcefully halted by police, who fired tear gas and arrested dozens of PTI workers, while for months, there was even a de facto ban on mentioning his name on Pakistani TV.
On several occasions when the PTI has attempted to host virtual or online fundraisers, nationwide internet blackouts that coincide with the timing of those events have ensued. But authorities have claimed the two occurrences are unrelated.
The International Human Rights Federation, in a statement after Imran was given the ten-year sentence on Tuesday, said their 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, though neither he nor his party can contest the upcoming elections. 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; tens of thousands of his political supporters were also arrested.
There was no immediate statement from Imran or his lawyers following the sentence, though they are expected to appeal.