Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan’s sons face threats of violence if they visit father in jail

Imran Khan’s children have received threats over their safety if they go to Pakistan to meet their father in jail, a source close to the family of the former prime minister of Pakistan has told The Independent.

Last week Khan and his wife, Bushra Bibi, were sentenced to 14 years in prison on corruption charges. This came just a day after another special court convicted the former leader of Pakistan of leaking state secrets and handed him a 10-year prison sentence. Finally, on Saturday, a court ruled his marriage was conducted illegally and handed him and Bibi another seven-year term.

Pakistan goes to the polls this Thursday and Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party says these hastily issued convictions are a brazen attempt to discredit them on trumped-up charges, with Khan continuing to ride high in favourability polls despite being jailed for the past six months and banned from holding political office.

But the crackdown Khan faces also extends far beyond the political realm. The source close to the family said that the two sons of the former prime minister, Suleman Khan, 27, and Qasim Khan, 25, who both live in the UK, have received “threats of violence”.

Meanwhile, relatives in Pakistan have also faced jail or handed their own criminal cases to answer, the source said. “His nephew has been held in a military jail for six months and no one knows [his] whereabouts,” they said. “His sister has a case pending for cybercrime and intimidation; some of the family escaped abroad before no-fly restrictions were applied to the rest.

“Even the poor domestic staff have been jailed,” they added. “The driver and the cook are in jail since May on terrorism charges.”

Speaking to The Independent in an interview in July last year before he was detained, 71-year-old Khan described what he said were the brutal tactics of police during raids on his and other party members’ houses, saying they “vandalise the home, they loot whatever they can find”. He believed at the time that the tactic was to “shock and awe, you know, scaring people”.

He also mentioned the family cook – who “has been with us for 30 years” – was picked up by the police and thrown in a small cell. “Right now he’s fighting for his life,” Khan said at the time.

“They beat him up and took him away, put him in prison and asked him: ‘What does Imran eat?’” Khan said of the incident in a separate interview, adding that the dictatorship of Pakistan’s last military leader Pervez Musharraf was “liberal compared to what is going on [now]”.

The Lahore police previously claimed that they recovered weapons including rifles, Kalashnikovs and petrol bombs during the raid at Khan’s home on 18 March 2023. They have not directly responded to the allegations of brutality during the raid.

The last time Khan’s sons visited him was in November 2022 after the PTI chief was shot during a rally in Wazirabad, Pakistan. Following that apparent assassination attempt, he and his sons were assigned additional security by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial police.

“What is happening in Pakistan right now is undemocratic and deeply unjust,” the source said.

Zulfi Bukhari, one of Khan’s closest aides, told The Independent last week that “there is one law for Imran Khan and another law for everyone else. No matter what the outcome, it’s not going to be a fair election”.

Thursday’s election pits Khan’s PTI against Pakistan’s two legacy parties, the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League (N) party and the Pakistan People’s Party. Analysts expect a PML (N) victory that would install Nawaz Sharif as prime minister for a record fourth term, after PTI were stripped of the right to campaign under their cricket bat election symbol and forced to back a list of independents instead.

On Monday, caretaker prime minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar urged young people to turn out and vote amid widespread reports that they are disillusioned by the state of Pakistani politics.