The conviction and seven-year imprisonment of former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi in the Iddat case on Saturday have sparked a strong backlash from lawyers and civil society, who criticized the verdict. This marks the fourth conviction for the beleaguered PTI founder, with previous sentences including 14 years in jail in the Toshakhana reference, 10 years for leaking state secrets, and three years in a separate Toshakhana case.
Legal experts weighed in on the latest conviction. Lawyer Basil Nabi Malik expressed concern about the intellectual bankruptcy of societal preoccupations, emphasizing that a marriage during the Iddat period might be irregular but not void. He questioned the applicability of Section 496, under which the accused were convicted, highlighting the requirement of intent and/or knowledge of not lawfully being married.
Lawyer Rida Hosain criticized the judiciary, stating that the recent convictions had discredited it. She argued that these rulings had nothing to do with the law and accused the courts of becoming part of the weaponization of justice. Referring to the right to dignity as absolute, she lamented that a married couple had to defend private decisions in court, conveying the message that nothing is sacred.
Lawyer Abdul Moiz Jaferii called the verdict a joke, exposing the circus that is the judicial system in the country. Lawyer Reema Omer condemned the decision as a damning blot on the justice system, highlighting how it invaded women’s privacy and freedom to make decisions about divorce and marriage.
Senior journalist Abbas Nasir criticized the sentence as a travesty and massive overkill, predicting that it would only inflame the PTI support base. Civil rights activist Dr. Ammar Ali Jan criticized the prioritization of an Iddat case over more significant issues, contrasting it with instances of genocide and constitutional subversion going unpunished.
Civil rights advocate and independent candidate in the February 8 general elections, Dr. Ammar Ali Jan, also joined in criticizing the verdict
“Welcome to Pakistan where an iddat case will get you a seven-year sentence while committing genocide and subverting the Constitution will get you free plots,” Dr Jan said.
Reuters bureau chief Gibran Peshimam noted the unusual frequency of guilty verdicts, stating that it would have been news if Imran Khan had not been convicted. He characterized three guilty verdicts in six days across three different cases as some sort of record.