No verdict in Iddat case as judge seeks transfer of appeals to another court

  • Judge writes to IHC, saying complainant always tried to frustrate, delay proceedings on one pretext or other
  • PTI supporters, lawyers angry at Maneka’s ‘delaying tactics’ assault him in and outside courtroom

ISLAMABAD: Following a frenzied courtroom hearing of the Iddat case on Wednesday, the judge sought its transfer to another court without announcing the reserved judgment, expected to overturn the incarcerated premier Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi’s conviction.

Additional District and Sessions Judge Shahrukh Arjumand left the courtroom after complainant Khawar Maneka expressed no confidence in him. The complainant made emotional arguments after asking the court to grant him 10 minutes to speak.

Shortly after, the judge wrote to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) requesting it to fix the case for hearing in some other court.

Judge Arjumand wrote in the letter “Though earlier application of complainants has already been dismissed in this regard on April 30, 2024, but I think it will not be appropriate to decide the case when specific objection has been raised on the Presiding Officer.”

It added “As arguments at length were heard in the matter, therefore, it is humbly submitted to transfer the appeals to any other court of competent jurisdiction.”

“It is further submitted that complainant and his counsel always tried to frustrate and delay the proceedings on one pretext or other, therefore, time frame may be fixed for disposal of appeals,” the judge wrote.

Today’s hearing

As the hearing commenced, an hour later than scheduled, Maneka appeared before the court along with his counsel Rizwan Abbasi.

The judge observed that prosecutor Abbasi was yet to present arguments on two points, following which he stepped onto the dais. However, Maneka requested the court for some time to present his arguments. At this, the judge asked him to let his counsel speak first. “My lawyer will not be able to explain my suffering. I will speak myself,” replied Maneka.

At this point, Bushra Bibi’s counsel Usman Gill urged the court to issue contempt notices to Maneka for interrupting court proceedings.

Maneka asked for 10 minutes of speaking time, saying he belonged to a village and that rumors were being spread about him and his daughter’s divorce every day. “Fake divorce letters are being made and spread on social media,” the complainant maintained.

Maneka’s interruption irked the PTI counsels who got into a heated argument with the former. Judge Arjumand then intervened asking the lawyers if they wanted to create scene.

“Today, respect is being demanded for a person who has served as the former premier. Why not grant a poor man the same respect too?” asked Maneka as he compared himself to Imran.

“I am being threatened. Listen to this poor man. I don’t believe in this court. I only believe in the Almighty. Think of me as a poor person, and realize what my family has suffered. My house has been destroyed,” he lamented.

He then asked the judge to not make a decision, alleging that he appeared to have been “influenced”.

Judge Arjumand remarked that it was not possible for him to transfer the case at this stage. However, he observed that any decision he now makes would be controversial. The judge then left the courtroom.

Maneka assaulted

Angry at Maneka for using “delaying tactics”, PTI women members inside the courtroom began sloganeering against him. Some threw water bottles at him and even slapped him.

He was then assaulted outside the courtroom by a man said to be a PTI lawyer as a group of his counsels escorted him outside the court premises.

Decision reserved

An appellate court last week reserved its decision on the appeals filed by Imran and Bushra against their conviction in a case concerning their marriage during the iddat period.

In February this year, after a jail trial, senior civil judge Qudratullah sentenced former premier Imran and his wife to seven years in jail, along with a Rs0.5 million fine each, for “contracting marriage during the ‘Iddat’ (period of waiting)” of the former first lady.

During the last hearing of the case in the court of Islamabad District and Sessions Judge Shah Rukh Arjumand, Bushra Bibi’s lawyer, Usman Riaz Gill, argued that Bushra’s former husband Khawar Maneka filed a complaint against the couple after a significant delay of six years.

He stated that initially, an unknown individual, Muhammad Hanif, filed a complaint, accusing Imran and Bushra of marrying without the completion of Bushra’s mandatory iddat period. Gill noted that Muhammad Hanif did not appear in the trial court and had no connection to the case.

In May 2023, a district and sessions court in Islamabad declared Hanif’s petition inadmissible.

According to Gill, Maneka later filed a similar petition through the same counsel, Raja Rizwan Abbasi Advocate, who had filed the first plea.

“The court has to examine evidence from both complaints. During the trial, some questions were posed to Mufti Muhammad Saeed—the cleric who solemnized Imran’s marriage with Bushra on January 1, 2018—to clarify his role,” he added.

Gill said the allegation is that the second marriage took place during the iddat period following a divorce. However, the document presented to the court was a photocopy. He provided guidelines to the court on determining the authenticity of the document.

He asserted that by the time the complaint was filed, the iddat period had already been completed, making the marriage lawful. He said Bushra Bibi, in her statement, mentioned the divorce occurred in April 2017, and she completed the iddat period before remarrying.

Defending the trial court’s order, Deputy District Prosecutor Adnan Ali argued that completing the iddat period is essential for the validity of the marriage.

He mentioned that Khawar Maneka and Bushra Bibi were happily married for 28 years with five children until PTI’s founder interfered in their lives, leading to the divorce. “Maneka intended to reconcile, but Bushra Bibi remarried during the iddat period.”

Jail sentence in Iddat case

On February 3, a court sentenced former premier Imran Khan and his wife, Bushra Bibi, to seven years imprisonment in an “un-Islamic” marriage case, meaning it found that they had tied the knot while the former first lady was going through her period of Iddat.

Senior civil judge Qudratullah, while announcing a reserved verdict, also imposed a Rs500,000 fine each on the PTI founding chairman and his wife.

The order read that Imran and Bushra were found guilty under Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) Section 496 (marriage ceremony fraudulently gone through without lawful marriage).

The written order also read that the two would be imprisoned for a further four months if they failed to pay the fines.

The case, which was filed by Bushra’s first husband, Khawar Maneka, alleged that Bushra had violated the Islamic practice of observing the mandatory pause, or Iddat, before marrying Imran.

Iddat is a mandatory waiting period that a Muslim woman must observe on account of the death of her husband or the dissolution of the marriage.

Maneka filed the complaint under sections 34 (common intention), 496, and 496-B (fornication) of the PPC.


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