Pakistan police have filed terrorism charges against former Prime Minister Imran Khan, officials said Monday, fueling political tensions in the country as the ousted prime minister held mass rallies to demand a return to office.
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The charges came after a speech Khan delivered in Islamabad on Saturday.
in which he promised to sue police officers and a judge and claimed that a close associate was tortured after his arrest.
Khan himself has not commented publicly on the latest charges against him. “Protective bail” for Khan for the next three days to prevent police from arresting him on the charges, said Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a senior leader of his opposition Tehreek-e-Insaf party.
Hundreds of Tehreek-e-Insaf members stood outside Khan’s home on Monday to show their support as the former prime minister held meetings inside. The party has warned it will hold rallies across the country if Khan is arrested while trying to smash charges in court.
“We will take Islamabad and my message to the police is: don’t be part of this political war any longer,” warned Ali Amin Khan Gandapur, a former minister under Khan.
Under the Pakistani legal system, the police submit a so-called-initial information report on the charges against an accused to a coroner, allowing the investigation to proceed. Normally, the police then arrest the accused and question him.
The report against Khan includes the testimony of Magistrate Ali Javed, who described that he was at the Islamabad rally on Saturday and overheard Khan criticizing the Pakistani Police Inspector General and another judge. willing to do so, we will also take action against you. You must all be ashamed of yourselves.
Khan could face several years in prison on the new charges, which accuse him of threatening police officers and the judge under Pakistan’s 1997 Anti-Terrorism Law
which gave broader powers to the police amid sectarian violence in the country.
But 25 years later, critics say the law helps security forces bypass constitutional protections for the accused, while governments also use it for political ends.
Other former Pakistani politicians, including former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and former Chief Executive Pervez Musharraf, have also been targeted under the law.
Khan has not been arrested on other minor charges brought against him as part of his recent anti-government campaign.
Also on Monday, a court in Islamabad ruled that a contempt trial against Khan for threatening a judge would begin Tuesday, court officials said. Pakistani courts generally forgive people when they apologize, although some politicians have also been convicted of insulting judges in the past.
Pakistan’s judiciary also has a history of politicization and partisanship in
power struggles between the military, civilian government and opposition politicians. according to Washington-based advocacy group Freedom House.
Current Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif is likely to discuss the charges against Khan at a cabinet meeting scheduled for Tuesday.
Khan came to power in 2018 and vowed to break the pattern of family rule in Pakistan. His opponents say he was elected with the help of the powerful armed forces that have ruled the country for half of its 75-year history.
Khan was accused of economic mismanagement by the opposition earlier this year as inflation soars and the value of the Pakistani rupee falls. court to intervene. In the meantime, the military seemed to have calmed down with Khan.
Khan claimed without providing evidence that the Pakistani military was involved in a UN plot to overthrow him. Washington, the Pakistani military and the Sharif government have all denied the allegation. Meanwhile, Khan has held a series of mass rallies to put pressure on the government.
In his final speech on Sunday night at a rally in the city of Rawalpindi, outside Islamabad, Khan said so-called “neutrals” were behind the recent crackdown on his party. In the past, he used the term “neutrals” for the military.
“A plan was made to put our party against the wall. I assure you that the situation in Sri Lanka will happen here,” Khan threatened, referring to the recent economic protests that toppled the government of this island nation.
“Now we follow the law and the constitution in. But if a political party deviates from this path, the situation in Pakistan, who will stop the public? There are 220 million people.
Khan’s party is staging massive protests, but Pakistan’s government and security forces fear for the former cricket star’s popularity. it could still attract millions to the streets. That could put further pressure on the nuclear-armed nation as it struggles to secure a $7 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund amid an economic crisis exacerbated by soaring food prices around the world from the war about Ukraine.
On Sunday, the internet-access advocacy group NetBlocks said internet services in the country blocked access to YouTube after Khan broadcast the speech on the platform despite a ban issued by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority.
Police arrested Shahbaz Gill, Khan’s political adviser, earlier this month after he appeared on private television station ARY TV urging soldiers and officers to refuse to obey military leaders’ “illegal orders”. Gill was charged with high treason, which carries the death penalty under Pakistan’s Sedition Law, which dates back to British colonial law. ARY does not stay on the air in Pakistan even after this broadcast.
Khan has claimed police mistreated Gill during his detention. According to Police
, Gill suffers from asthma and was not abused while in detention.
Gill was discharged from a hospital on Monday to attend a court hearing. He appeared healthy on television footage as he made his way to court under tight security. The court then ordered him to be taken into police custody for two days for interrogation, said Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb. He is expected to appear in court again on Thursday. Khan’s speech in Islamabad on Saturday focused mainly on Gill’s arrest.