Pakistan Piles Up More Corruption Charges Against Imprisoned Ex-PM Imran Khan

Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan, right, and Bushra Bibi, his wife, speak
AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, already jailed on corruption and national security charges, was indicted on Tuesday on charges that he and his wife Bushra Bibi accepted parcels of land as bribes when Khan was in office.

The latest Khan indictment involves a non-governmental organization (NGO) called the Al-Qadir University Trust established by Khan and his wife in 2018, the year he became prime minister.

The trust was supposed to provide funding for an Islamic school near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. The school was named after an 11th-century Sufi leader and administered by Khan’s third wife Bushra Bibi, also known as Bushra Watto and Bushra Maneka, who cultivated an image as a Sufi mystic and faith healer. Khan frequently promoted the Al-Qadir University trust during public events and praised the efforts of Bibi, who he described as his spiritual guide and mentor.

Prosecutors allege that the university trust, which listed only Khan and Bibi as its trustees, was actually a scam created so they could be given large tracts of valuable land as bribes by billionaire real estate developer Malik Riaz Hussain.

The trust currently owns a hefty 60-acre parcel of land in Punjab valued at almost $25 million, plus another plot close to Khan’s residence in Islamabad. The university itself supposedly remains under construction, accumulating hefty “operational expenses” that do not appear to have been properly documented.

According to the prosecution, the quid pro quo for Hussain’s gift of land involved Khan using money from the Pakistani treasury to pay off $244 million in fines levied against Hussain by the British government. Hussain reached a civil settlement with the U.K. government to conclude a corruption investigation in 2019.

Khan styled himself as an anti-corruption crusader and continues to present himself as such today. One of his campaign promises was to recover financial damages from corruption cases and put the money back into the national treasury.

Since he was ejected from office with a parliamentary vote of no confidence in April 2022, Khan has racked up over a hundred active investigations into his activities as prime minister, many of them related to corruption. He and his PTI party dismiss all of them as politically motivated slander invented by the Pakistani political and military establishment to keep him out of office.

The Al-Qadir University Trust case was the reason a paramilitary squad burst into a courthouse in Islamabad to arrest Khan while he was making an appearance on other charges in May 2023. The violent operation to take Khan into custody caused numerous injuries and greatly annoyed the Pakistani Supreme Court, which declared the arrest unlawful and ordered him released two days later.

That left two days during which Khan’s supporters rioted in cities across Pakistan, causing at least eight deaths during clashes with the police. Khan and his party claim the death toll was much higher but the government conspired to keep the true number of fatalities secret. The rioters damaged military property, alienating the powerful military establishment and beginning a chain of events that ended with PTI effectively banned from ballots in the February 2024 election.

PTI did extremely well anyway by running its candidates as independents, stunning the Pakistani political establishment and kicking off a scramble by the ruling PMLN party to cobble together a coalition government before PTI could take power.

Khan and Bibi appeared in court in Islamabad on Tuesday to plead not guilty in the Al-Qadir Trust case. He is already serving 14 years in prison on another corruption conviction for improperly keeping gifts from foreign leaders and selling some of them for cash, plus ten years for endangering national security by exposing classified documents. Khan is detained at the Adiala prison near Islamabad, while Bibi is under house arrest.

With additional charges for inciting violence during the riots after his arrest, Khan is facing over 170 active cases against him. He and Bibi picked up another seven-year prison sentence earlier this month when Bibi’s former husband, Khawar Maneka, charged her with failing to observe the three-month waiting period mandated by Islamic law before marrying Khan after he divorced her in late 2017.


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