It might seem incredible that religious violations, financial crimes, and divorce could all combine into one legal proceeding. However, this is possible not only in the United States but also around the world. We often forget that many of our laws are tied in with religion, especially when it comes to marriage and divorce. After all, marriage began as a highly religious process in the United States, and for many people, it remains that way. A recent case in Pakistan reminds us of the interesting relationship between divorce, financial crimes, and religious blasphemy. 

Wife of Former Prime Minister Sentenced to Seven Years for Unlawful Marriage

On February 3, a court in Pakistan sentenced the wife of the nation’s former prime minister to seven years in prison. The wife of Imran Khan’s crime was “unlawful marriage,” as she had allegedly violated an Islamic law stating that an “iddat” must be observed before a woman can legally remarry. This period usually lasts three lunar months, and it is intended to remove any doubts about paternity in the new marriage. However, the exact laws seem quite vague – and this particular Islamic principle seems to be rarely enforced. 

Supporters of Khan say that this entire case was politically motivated and that it was designed to make the former prime minister ineligible for the upcoming election while publicly shaming his wife. Khan is something of a controversial figure, having previously been singled out by pro-Western powers for pursuing a neutral stance in regard to Russia, China, and other BRICS nations. 

He also faces various allegations of fraud and financial crimes. One allegation involves illegally selling state gifts, and his wife is implicated in this supposed scheme. But perhaps the most notable crime is “leaking state secrets.” This charge stems from Khan’s decision to wave a top-secret document around in public, claiming that it proved the West was attempting to influence Pakistani politics. Interestingly, the charge itself proves that the document was authentic – as he could not have faced charges of leaking state secrets if his allegations were incorrect. 

A Similar Situation Could Unfold in the United States

While this all might seem very outlandish to residents of the constitutionally secular United States, one must remember that we also have religious laws on our books regarding divorce. Numerous states still view adultery (sometimes known as “fornication”) as a criminal offense, for example. In addition, the religious offense of adultery can become tied in with financial crimes. In the event that a spouse showers an illicit partner with expensive gifts during an affair, family courts typically see this as financial misconduct or willful dissipation of marital assets. 

However, the truth is that very few Americans have ever been charged with the crime of adultery in the modern era. There are outstanding questions as to whether these charges are even constitutional, and they mostly pave the way for heart balm torts in civil courts. If an American were to face criminal charges for adultery (such as a former president approaching an election), the general public would likely assume that this was a politically motivated misuse of the criminal justice system. This is the exact argument that many Pakistani voters have been voicing in light of the Khan family’s legal issues.