Islamabad court delays verdict in Iddat case against Imran Khan and Bushra Bibi

An Islamabad district and sessions court refrained from announcing its reserved verdict in the controversial iddat case involving former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his spouse Bushra Bibi. The decision was unexpectedly postponed following a series of heated exchanges and an assault on the complainant, Khawar Fareed Maneka, outside the court premises.

Background of the case

The case, which has been a focal point of legal and public attention, revolves around the marriage of Khan and Bushra Bibi during her iddat period — the mandated waiting period a woman observes after the death of her husband or a divorce. Earlier this month, an Islamabad court sentenced the couple to seven years in prison for violating this period, a verdict that was met with widespread criticism from civil society, women’s rights activists, and legal experts.

The incident

As the verdict announcement loomed, tensions escalated outside the courtroom. A video broadcast showed Maneka, dressed in traditional white shalwar kameez, being physically assaulted by men who appeared to be lawyers. The footage depicted him being shoved and ultimately falling to the ground as bystanders attempted to intervene. This incident added a chaotic layer to an already contentious legal battle.

Courtroom dynamics

Inside the courtroom, District and Sessions Judge Shahrukh Arjumand, who was expected to deliver the verdict, decided to recuse himself from the case, citing allegations of bias from the complainant. Maneka had previously requested the judge to withdraw from the case, accusing him of being sympathetic towards the PTI founder. In a letter to the Islamabad High Court registrar, Judge Arjumand requested the transfer of the case to another court, emphasising the importance of impartiality in the judicial process.

Legal proceedings

The case’s legal journey has been fraught with delays and accusations. On February 3, days before the general elections, Khan and Bushra Bibi were convicted and sentenced to seven years in jail for their marriage during the iddat period. This verdict was part of a series of judgments against Khan, including a 14-year sentence in the Toshakhana case and a 10-year sentence in the cipher case.

The appeals against their convictions in the iddat case were taken up by Judge Arjumand on February 29. Despite the defense and prosecution presenting their arguments, the absence of Maneka’s lead counsel, Raja Rizwan Abbasi, further complicated the proceedings. The court had reserved its decision last week, pending Abbasi’s appearance to conclude his arguments.

Implications for privacy and dignity

The iddat case has not only legal but also significant social implications. Critics argue that the conviction for a private matter such as iddat intrudes upon personal freedoms and women’s rights. Activists have staged protests in Islamabad and Karachi, decrying the state’s intrusion into private lives and advocating for the protection of women’s dignity and privacy.

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