Police officers stop a vehicle carrying Bushra Bibi, wife of Pakistan’s imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan, at a checkpoint near district prison, in Attock (Image: AP)
Pakistan’s imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan was allowed a brief visit by his wife on Thursday at a high-security prison where the top opposition leader and national cricket hero is being held, his lawyer said.
The visit comes as Pakistan is inching toward new parliamentary elections. The National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, was dissolved on Wednesday and Khan’s successor, incumbent Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, is now expected to install a caretaker government to administer day-to-day affairs and lead the country until the vote, possibly by November.
Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League party is expected to face tough competition from Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party or PTI — though Khan himself would be unable to take part unless his conviction is overturned. Under Pakistan’s laws, no one with a criminal conviction can lead a party, run in elections or hold public office.
Thursday’s prison visit was the first time that the 70-year-old Khan saw his wife, Bushra Bibi, since he was convicted by an Islamabad court over the weekend and sentenced to three years for concealing assets from selling state gifts he received while in power.
Bibi, a spiritual healer from a deeply conservative family, is facing separate charges with Khan for accepting a piece of land as a gift in exchange for providing benefits to a real estate tycoon during Khan’s term in office.
The visit lasted just over half an hour — a time typically granted to common prisoners, lawyer Naeem Haider Panjutha said in a video message on X, formerly known as Twitter. High-profile prisoners are usually granted a longer time for the weekly family visits.
The lawyer, who is appealing what he says are dire prison conditions for Khan, said he is still held in a small cell without air-conditioning and has been denied permission to get home-cooked food and see his longtime physician. The Attock prison in eastern Punjab province is notorious for its harsh conditions and its inmates include convicted militants.
The prison department said Thursday Khan can watch television, read newspapers and get medical care provided by a prison doctor.
Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote in April 2022 but remains hugely popular. He has been slapped with some 150 legal cases since his ouster, and has insisted that his removal from power was a conspiracy by Washington, Sharif and the Pakistani military — accusations that all three have denied.
Khan was previously arrested in May, also on corruption charges, triggering a wave of violent protests across the country. Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered his release days later, saying the arrest was illegal.
In a separate development, a court in the capital, Islamabad, on Thursday canceled bail that Khan was granted a week ago in the real estate case where Bibi is the co-accused.
Although after parliament is dissolved, new elections have to be held within 90 days, this time there is a twist. A delay until the spring is possible if Pakistan’s election commission opts for redistricting ahead of an election, based on the results of a recent census.
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