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Who is Bushra Bibi – former Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s wife jailed for 14 years in graft case?

It was Imran Khan’s third conviction but first for his wife Bushra Khan, commonly known as Bushra Bibi, who gave herself up for arrest shortly after verdict in graft case

Shweta Sharma
Wednesday 31 January 2024 12:31 GMT
FILE: Imran Khan sworn in as Pakistan’s prime minister

A Pakistani anti-corruption court on Wednesday jailed Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Khan for 14 years each on charges of illegally selling state gifts.

Ms Khan, commonly known as Bushra Bibi, gave herself up for arrest shortly after the verdict.

Ms Khan, the third wife of the former prime minister, has avoided the spotlight, keeping a low public profile that had left many parts of her life a mystery. When making appearances, she is most often seen in dress that leaves only her eyes uncovered.

Mr Khan and his wife are charged with illegally selling gifts worth more than 140 million rupees ($501,000; £3,94,988) in state possession and received during his 2018-2022 premiership. Government officials have alleged Mr Khan’s aides sold the gifts in Dubai.

Ms Khan was not present at the hearing that was held inside the jail in Rawalpindi where Mr Khan is incarcerated, his political outfit Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said on Wednesday.

It was Mr Khan’s third conviction but the first for the former first lady. Ms Khan’s conviction is an attempt to pressurise Imran Khan further, PTI’s acting chairman and lawyer Gohar Ali Khan said in a television interview. “Bushra Bibi has no link to this case,” he said.

Who is Bushra Bibi?

Born Bushra Riaz Watto, Ms Khan changed her name after her marriage to the former Pakistani cricket star in 2018. Her title Bibi in Urdu denotes respect and is used by Muslim women in South Asia.

Ms Khan is believed to be in her 40s and is an influential figure in Pakistan’s Sufi circle for her devotion to Sufism – a mystical and ascetic form of Islam that emphasises the inner, spiritual dimension of the religious practice.

The two were married in a secret ceremony months before Khan ascended to premiership for the first time. It was Khan’s third marriage after two divorces.

Mr Khan calls her his spiritual leader for her devotion to Sufism. The former first lady is believed to be a devotee of the 13th century mystic, Fariduddin Masud Ganjshakar, more popularly known as Baba Farid. He is revered as a Muslim mystic and Sufi saint whose shrine is located in Pakpattan in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Pakistan Politics (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Ms Khan has remained a figure of interest and intrigue in Pakistan. She belongs to a family of landowners in Punjab and details about her early life in public domain are scarce.

She was earlier married to Khawar Farid Maneka, a customs officer from a politically influential Punjab family and has five children from her first marriage.

A man reads a newspaper reporting on the imprisonment sentence against former Prime Minister Imran Khan in Peshawar, (EPA)

Mr Khan was earlier married to Jemima Goldsmith – daughter of business tycoon James Goldsmith – and also to TV journalist Reham Nayyar Khan.

Ms Khan rarely appears in media or follows Mr Khan on his international diplomatic trips with the exception of her visits to Saudi Arabia, where the couple was filmed at the holy Muslim cities of Mecca and Medina.

In a rare interview, she told the local HUM news network in 2018 that "people would come to see me to get closer to God and the Prophet".

"Every moment of Khan sahib’s life is now dedicated to God, the Prophet, and the love for Baba Farid,” she said.

Imran Khan talks to the media before signing documents to submit surety bond over his bails in different cases, at an office of Lahore High Court in Lahore, Pakistan, in 2023 (AP)

Ms Khan has earlier also defended her public appearanes in veil. "My veil doesn’t define that I am not modern. I should be judged on the basis of my personality, not my face," she said.

She is credited with inspiring Mr Khan to establish the Al-Qadir Trust, a non-governmental organisation devoted to spirituality and Islamic teachings, according to members of PTI.

However, the trust became embroiled in a legal case and reason for Mr Khan’s arrest in May last year after corruption charges were levelled against the couple. Mr Khan promoted the trust at official events, and the couple were the sole trustees, according to law minister Azam Nazeer Tarar.

Mr Khan’s party spokesperson Farrukh Habib told Reuters that the couple drew no financial benefits from the trust.

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