Imran Khan Charged with Terrorism, Faces Arrest

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan | Reuters file

Islamabad- Pakistani police have filed terrorism charges against Imran Khan over comments he made in a speech at the weekend, stoking political tensions as the former prime minister’s loyalists vow to resist efforts to arrest him.

Khan’s lawyers said they would challenge the charges and hundreds of his supporters gathered outside his home in Islamabad, denouncing what they called an effort by prime minister Shehbaz Sharif to silence his main political rival.

“The terrorism-related charges against Imran Khan are completely biased,” said Iftikhar Durrani, a senior leader from Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party. “We are going to court to contest these charges.”

Khan said at a rally at the weekend that his supporters “won’t spare” the officials responsible for detaining Shahbaz Gill, one of his allies, this month.

The police alleged Khan “terrorised” the officials, while Pakistan’s information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb accused the former prime minister of “inciting the people to violence, lawlessness, rebellion and riot”.

If imran khan is arrested by the imported govt we will take over Islamabad and my message to police is that don’t be part of this political war anymore otherwise will deal u as pdm workers not police anymore let pti and pdm leadership and workers fight and decide once and for all

— Ali Amin Khan Gandapur (@AliAminKhanPTI) August 21, 2022

Pakistan’s media regulator barred television channels from broadcasting Khan’s speeches and the former prime minister claimed a talk of his was blocked from YouTube.

Khan was ousted as prime minister in April in a no-confidence vote, bringing a coalition led by Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (N) into power.

But the former cricketer’s popularity has surged since his defenestration. He has toured the country trying to force early elections, alleging without evidence that his removal was the result of a US-backed conspiracy in retaliation for his warm relations with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Khan has also tapped public frustration with Pakistan’s dire economic situation, despite many of the problems starting while he was in office. The country has suffered double-digit inflation, power blackouts due to energy shortages and is at risk of default on its overseas debt as foreign currency reserves dwindle.

Sharif’s government reached a preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a $1.2 billion loan last month, part of an assistance package first negotiated under Khan in 2019. The IMF’s board will meet next week to finalise the deal, while Saudi Arabia is also preparing to renew a $3 billion deposit at Pakistan’s central bank.

The dispute between Khan and Sharif’s government escalated this month after Pakistani authorities arrested Gill for televised comments that they claim incited the military rank-and-file to disobey orders. ARY TV, the channel on which he made the comments, was also taken off air.

Huma Baqai, a political analyst in Karachi, said the government’s actions “are strengthening Imran Khan every minute. His narrative seems to be selling like hot cakes”.

Protesters outside Khan’s home promised to fight the police if Sharif’s government ordered the former prime minister’s arrest. “If the police come here to arrest Imran Khan, the government will be crossing an absolute red line. We will never allow that,” said Jamil Khan, a student and PTI activist.


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