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Bushra Bibi: The Enigmatic Spiritual Guide and Controversial Figure


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In a recent turn of events, Bushra Khan, the wife of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, has found herself facing corruption charges in a case that led to her husband’s arrest on May 9. Accompanied by Imran, Bushra appeared in court on Monday and was granted protective bail.

Bushra Bibi, as she is commonly referred to, is renowned for her spiritual inclination and devotion to Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam. Imran Khan, 70, has often expressed admiration for Bushra, considering her his spiritual leader.

Born as Bushra Riaz Watto, she adopted the name Khan after her marriage to Imran. Both her husband and followers accord her the titles of Bushra Bibi or Bushra Begum, which signify respect. Since marrying Imran, Bushra has maintained a low-profile public presence.

Details about Bushra’s early life remain scarce. She hails from a landowning family in Punjab and was previously married to Khawar Farid Maneka, a customs officer belonging to a politically influential family. Their marriage lasted approximately 30 years, and following their divorce in 2018, Maneka publicly praised Bushra for her piety, describing her as unparalleled in her devotion.

Bushra and Maneka share five children and are both followers of Fariduddin Masud Ganjshakar, widely known as Baba Farid, a revered Sufi saint whose shrine is located in Pakpattan, Maneka’s hometown in Punjab. Many Pakistanis admire Bushra for her devotion to Baba Farid, considering her a spiritual leader. However, some of Imran’s opponents have accused her of practicing sorcery, an allegation that Imran’s aides have repeatedly denied. In a rare interview in 2018, Bushra mentioned that people sought her out to strengthen their connection with God and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

The circumstances of Imran and Bushra’s meeting remain unclear, but according to former aide Aun Chaudhry, Imran was deeply impressed by her spirituality. In 2018, Imran and Bushra married in a secret ceremony, seven months prior to Imran’s election as prime minister. This marked Imran’s third marriage following his previous unions with Jemima Goldsmith, daughter of business tycoon James Goldsmith, and TV journalist Reham Nayyar Khan, both of which ended in divorce.

Bushra’s commitment to spirituality is evident through her frequent visits to the Baba Farid shrine. Photographs of the couple prostrating at the shrine were published in local media a few months before Imran assumed office as prime minister. During their time in office, Bushra rarely accompanied her husband on official overseas trips, except for visits to Saudi Arabia, where they were captured on film at the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Bushra is always seen in public wearing a veil and a burqa that reveals only her eyes.

Furthermore, Bushra played a significant role in inspiring Imran to establish the Al-Qadir Trust, a non-governmental welfare organization focused on spirituality and Islamic teachings. The trust has become entangled in the corruption charges leveled against the couple. While serving as prime minister, Imran promoted the trust during official events, with the couple serving as the sole trustees, as stated by Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar.

The case against the couple has been deemed politically motivated by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, and PTI spokesman Farrukh Habib emphasized that the couple receives no financial benefits from the trust.

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