Pakistan charges former leader Imran Khan under terrorism act

A banner with Imran Khan, Pakistan’s prime minister, is seen along a road in Islamabad on April 2, 2022. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Asad Zaidi

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Imran Khan, Pakistan’s former prime minister, has been changed under the country’s anti-terrorism act, in the latest chapter of the tense struggle for power with Pakistan’s current government since his ouster.

Sunday’s move came a day after Khan addressed a rally and criticized top police officials and a judge for the arrest of his chief of staff. Police said in a charge report that Khan had threatened the officials.

“The way Imran Khan made his speech and the threats he made led to fear and terror among the police, judiciary and the common people and it harmed the peace of country,” they wrote in the report.

Since Khan was ousted from power in April, he has held a string of boisterous rallies castigating the government. The former cricket star has maintained his strong political base and gained momentum in local elections. By contrast, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who replaced Khan, has made little progress in addressing the dire economic crisis that sent consumer prices skyrocketing.

Hours after news of the charge broke, hundreds of Khan’s supporters gathered outside his residence in Islamabad, the capital, in an effort to prevent his arrest.

“Imran Khan’s arrest is a ‘red line’ for us. If this line is crossed that would lead to something very bad, not good for the people and for the country,” said Murad Saeed, a senior official of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, which is led by Khan.

“We want to remain within the bounds of the constitution, but people are upset, very angry,” he said, warning the popular unrest could “destroy” the sitting government.

Saeed and other party leaders have called on thousands more to come to Islamabad and “protect their leader.”

Khan’s chief of staff, Shahbaz Gill, was arrested earlier this month after he made comments on a talk show that the government deemed “anti-military.” Khan alleges that Gill was tortured during his imprisonment, a claim the government denies.

Khan and his party already faced a partial media ban. Authorities have prohibited the live broadcast of his speeches, and the news channel on which Gill made his remarks was banned. Two news anchors associated with the same channel fled the country after reportedly being harassed by the government.



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