Pakistani Court Indicts Ex-PM Khan, Wife in Graft Case

Islamabad — An anti-corruption court in Pakistan indicted former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife Tuesday on charges that he had received land as a bribe while in office.

The trial was conducted in a prison center near the capital, Islamabad, where Khan has been serving lengthy sentences since last August following convictions on multiple charges, including graft, leaking state secrets, and fraudulent marriage.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI, party condemned Tuesday’s indictment, saying the couple pleaded not guilty after the charges were read to them and dismissed them as frivolous, just like in all the previous convictions.

“Trials conducted behind prison walls, only meant to pave the way for miscarriage of justice, particularly in fabricated and politically motivated cases, only to keep Imran Khan behind bars,” said a PTI statement.

The latest corruption case centers on the non-profit charitable Al-Qadir University Trust, which Khan and his wife established months after he took office in 2018.

Prosecutors allege the trust was a front for the deposed prime minister to obtain the valuable land for the school from Malik Riaz Hussain, a major real estate developer and one of Pakistan’s wealthiest and most powerful businessmen.

The prosecutors say that in exchange for the land, Riaz received a favor from Khan.

They allege the quid pro quo involved the settlement of Riaz’s assets, set to be worth $240 million, in a money laundering case.

Riaz reached a deal with British authorities in December 2019 to surrender his assets to Britain’s National Crime Agency in an investigation related to “dirty money.” The British agency noted in its judgement that the assets were to be returned to the state of Pakistan, suggesting they were illegally laundered abroad by the property tycoon and his family.

The Khan government was not a party to the deal.

According to the prosecution, the former prime minister arranged for the money to be deposited into Pakistan’s Supreme Court account instead of the national treasury and that doing so allowed Riaz to partially pay off a large financial penalty that the court had imposed on his company in a separate case.

Prosecutors say the quid pro quo caused a loss of tens of millions of dollars to the national treasury, alleging Khan misused his authority as prime minister.

‘Flimsy’ allegations

In a Tuesday statement, the PTI rejected as “flimsy” allegations that Khan misused his authority and stated that the “land donated does not benefit Imran Khan in any way possible since it’s a charitable organization.”

The 71-year-old politician and his wife, Bushra Bibi, have both been convicted in one of the corruption-related lawsuits and sentenced to 14-year prison terms. He has appealed the convictions, which disqualify him from participating in national politics for 10 years.

The PTI said that Khan’s legal team has had “limited access” to the court proceedings and journalists, particularly those representing international media, were barred from covering Tuesday’s trial.

The cricket celebrity-turned-prime minister was ousted from office in 2022 through an opposition-led parliamentary vote of no-confidence. He has since faced scores of lawsuits, including for corruption, terrorism, and murder.

Khan and his party maintain that a conspiracy planned by the military at the behest of the United States had led to his ouster from office, charges rejected by Washington and subsequent governments in Islamabad.

The deposed leader denies any wrongdoing and alleges Pakistan’s powerful military has orchestrated the lawsuits to block his return to power.

PTI leaders, workers, and supporters have been subjected to a military-backed state crackdown for months in a bid to deter them from organizing political rallies or make them abandon Khan altogether.

His loyalist candidates won the largest number of seats in parliament in national elections February 8, despite the crackdown and multiple convictions in the lead-up to the vote, underscoring the incarcerated Khan’s growing popularity.

The results were marred by allegations of widespread electoral fraud, with several countries, including the U.S., calling for a full investigation into the irregularities.

The PTI maintains the rigging enabled the pro-military Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan People’s Party to form an alliance, which is set to create a minority coalition government later this week. The country’s Sharif and Bhutto dynasties lead the traditional ruling parties.

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