Bushra, who is in her late 40s, hails from a family of landowners in Punjab. Little is known about her early life. Image Credit: Reuters

ISLAMABAD: Bushra Khan, the wife of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was sentenced to 14 years in jail on Wednesday, is known for her spirituality.

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Khan, 71, has often called Bushra his spiritual leader and she is known for her devotion to Sufism.

Born Bushra Riaz Watto, she changed her name to Khan after her marriage. Her husband and followers commonly refer to her as Bushra Bibi or Bushra Begum, titles that in Urdu denote respect.

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She has kept a low profile since her marriage to Khan, a former cricket hero who has been in the public eye for decades.

Below are some facts about Bushra:

EARLY LIFE: Bushra, who is in her late 40s, hails from a family of landowners in Punjab. Little is known about her early life. Her first marriage, which lasted about 30 years, was to Khawar Farid Maneka, a customs officer from a politically influential Punjab family. After their divorce in 2018 he was quoted by Pakistani media as saying: “I want to clearly state about my former wife, Bushra Bibi, that I have not seen a woman as pious as her in the world”.

Bushra and Maneka have five children.

MYSTIC, SECRET MARRIAGE: Both Bushra and ex-husband Maneka are devotees of Fariduddin Masud Ganjshakar, or Baba Farid, a revered mystic and Sufi saint whose shrine is located in Maneka’s hometown of Pakpattan in Punjab.

Pakistanis who admire Bushra’s devotion to the saint call her a spiritual leader while Khan’s opponents accuse her of practicing sorcery, a claim Khan’s aides have repeatedly denied.

In a rare interview, Bushra told local HUM news network in 2018 that “people would come to see me to get closer to God.

It was not clear when or how Khan met Bushra, but former aide Aun Chaudhry said Khan was very impressed with her spirituality.

Khan, who had acquired a playboy image in the 1990s as his cricket career took off, has previously said he was keenly interested in Sufism.

Khan and Bushra married in 2018, seven months before he was elected prime minister, in a secret ceremony.

The marriage was Khan’s third after Jemima Goldsmith, daughter of business tycoon James Goldsmith, and TV journalist Reham Nayyar Khan. Both these marriages ended in divorce.

SPIRITUAL JOURNEY: A few months before Khan was elected prime minister, local media carried photos of the couple prostrating at the Baba Farid shrine. In the HUM interview, Bushra said: “Every moment of Khan sahib’s life is now dedicated to God and the love for Baba Farid”.

Bushra, who is always seen in public wearing a veil and a burqa that shows only her eyes, did not accompany her husband on any official overseas trips during his time in office except for visits to Saudi Arabia, where they were filmed at the holy Muslim cities of Mecca and Medina.

AL QADIR TRUST: Members of Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, have said Bushra inspired Khan to set up Al Qadir Trust, a non-governmental welfare organisation that runs a university outside Islamabad devoted to spirituality and Islamic teachings.

The trust is part of another set of corruption charges levied against the couple. While prime minister, Khan promoted the trust at official events, and the couple are the sole trustees, according to Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar.

Khan’s party spokesman Farrukh Habib had told Reuters that the couple draw no financial benefit from the trust.