What Is Toshakhana Case In Which Ex-Pakistan PM Imran Khan, Wife Bushra Bibi Got 14 Years Jail?

The sentencing came amid a state crackdown against Imran Khan, the most popular politician in the country based on independent polls.

(AP Photo)
Ex-Pakistan PM Imran Khan and Wife Bushra Bibi (AP Photo)

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife, Bushra Bibi, have each been sentenced to 14 years in prison in the Toshakhana case. This comes just one day after Khan was sentenced to 10 years in prison for leaking state secrets.

In addition to their prison sentences, the couple was fined 787 million rupees each.

The Toshakhana case centres on allegations that Khan and his wife unlawfully benefited from the sale of state gifts. In contrast, Tuesday's conviction was related to the leaking of classified state documents - The Cipher case. Both sentences are expected to run concurrently, although official confirmation is pending.

Their sentencing came amid a state crackdown against Imran Khan, the most popular politician in the country based on independent polls. His arrest in May 2023 led to widespread unrest and an internet blackout, with thousands of his supporters detained.

With general elections happening on February 8, Khan's party, PTI, has been banned from participating, and their political rallies have been disbanded by authorities.

Both Imran Khan and Bushra Bibi have denied any wrongdoing. Following a no-confidence vote that removed him from office in April 2022, Khan is currently facing over 150 pending lawsuits.

What Is The Toshkhana Case?

The Toshakhana is a federal government department that is in charge of all the valuables received by officials and elected leaders while in office. 

The Toshakhana controversy gained prominence in August 2022 when the coalition government, led by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), filed a case against Imran Khan. The claim was that he did not disclose information on gifts presented to Toshakhana and was involved in the "illegal" sale of some of these gifts.

In August, Khan received a three-year prison sentence from the Election Commission of Pakistan for not disclosing assets related to the sale of state gifts worth over 140 million rupees ($501,000) received during his prime ministership from 2018 to April 2022. However, the sentencing in that case was suspended.

The recent sentencing is linked to a parallel case initiated by an anti-corruption agency. In this case, both Khan and his wife face accusations of graft in the sale of state gifts. The convictions include charges of concealing the actual costs of received gifts, not disclosing gifts, and purchasing gifts from Toshakhana at undervalued rates, causing a loss to the exchequer.

According to Toshakhana rules, gifts remain the property of the state unless sold at an open auction. The Express Tribune newspaper reports that officials are allowed to retain gifts with a market value of less than Rs 10,000 without payment.

What Are The Gifts?

Imran Khan faces accusations of corruption and illegal selling, particularly involving a unique antique watch, gold pen, ring, and cufflinks given to him by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Imran Khan has maintained that he purchased these items from the government, paying a percentage of their value, as opposed to engaging in corruption or illegal selling. Reports suggest that other gifts include perfumes, diamond jewellery, and dinner sets.

Analysts Blame Pakistan's Military

Analysts say that Khan’s fate was less a judicial matter than a political one. Pakistan has a history of arresting former prime ministers or keeping them on the sidelines before elections, particularly if they are perceived as a challenge to the powerful Pakistani military establishment, which has long held enormous influence in civilian politics.

Pakistani political analyst Cyril Almeida told Al Jazeera that Khan’s conviction is a message from the powerful military to the people before the vote next week.

“The generals are telling the voter: don’t bother. Don’t bother turning up to vote for Imran because he will not be allowed near power again anytime soon,” he told Al Jazeera. “Whether the voters obey [the army] will be known next week. The charges are political, the conviction is political and, if and when the time comes, the reversal will be political.”

Khan was already barred from competing in the election, but the consecutive convictions and lengthy prison sentences show the military's campaign against its former protege.

Many believe former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who returned from self-imposed exile in the autumn, is now preferred by the Pakistani military establishment, whereas Khan—once the golden boy of the military establishment—has fallen out of favour.

Pakistan’s military enjoys vast political influence and has directly ruled the country for three decades since its formation in 1947. In Pakistan's history, no prime minister has completed their tenure, whereas three out of four military dictators ruled for nearly a decade each.