Police file terrorism charges against ex-Pakistani PM Imran Khan


The charges followed a speech he gave in Islamabad on Saturday in which he pledged to prosecute police officers and a female judge

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistani police have filed terrorism charges against former prime minister Imran Khan, authorities said on Monday, heightening political tensions in the country as the ousted prime minister holds mass rallies to return to office.

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The charges follow a speech Khan gave in Islamabad on Saturday in which he pledged to prosecute police officers and a female judge and alleged that a close aide was tortured after his arrest.

Khan himself has not spoken publicly about the latest charges against him. However, a court in Islamabad has issued a so-called « protection bond » for Khan for the next three days, preventing police from arresting him on the charges, said Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a senior leader of his party. opposition Tehreek-e-Insaf.

Hundreds of Tehreek-e-Insaf members stood outside Khan’s house 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 working to try to crush the charges in court.

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« We are going to take control of Islamabad and my message to the police is…don’t be part of this political war anymore, » warned Ali Amin Khan Gandapur, a former minister under Khan.

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Under the Pakistani legal system, the police file what is known as a first information report on the charges against an accused with an investigative judge, which allows the investigation to progress. Generally, the police arrest and question the accused.

The report against Khan includes testimony from Magistrate Judge Ali Javed, who described being at the Islamabad rally on Saturday and hearing Khan criticize the Inspector General of Pakistani Police and another judge. Khan reportedly went on to say, “You too get ready, we will also take action against you. You should all be ashamed.

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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 counter-terrorism law, which gave police greater powers amid sectarian violence in the country. However, 25 years later, critics say the law helps security forces circumvent constitutional protections for defendants, while governments also use it for political purposes.

Khan was not detained on other less serious charges brought against him during his recent campaign against the government.

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Pakistan’s justice system also has a history of politicization and taking sides in power struggles between the military, civilian government and opposition politicians, according to the 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.

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Khan came to power in 2018, promising to break the pattern of family rule in Pakistan. His opponents argue he was elected with the help of the mighty military, which has ruled the country for half of its 75-year history.

Seeking Khan’s ouster earlier this year, the opposition accused him of economic mismanagement as inflation soars and the value of the Pakistani rupee plummets. Parliament’s no-confidence vote in April that ousted Khan capped months of political turmoil and a constitutional crisis that forced the Supreme Court to intervene. During this time, it seems that the army had also grown cold towards Khan.

Khan alleged without providing evidence that the Pakistani military had participated in a US plot to oust him. Washington, the Pakistani military and the Sharif government have all denied this allegation. Meanwhile, Khan held a series of mass rallies in an attempt to pressure the government.

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In his final speech on Sunday night at a rally in the town of Rawalpindi outside Islamabad, Khan said so-called « neutrals » were behind the recent crackdown on his party. He has in the past used the term « neutral » for the military.

“A plan has been made to place our party against the wall. I assure you that the situation in Sri Lanka is going to happen here,” threatened Khan, referring to the recent economic protests that toppled the island nation’s government.

“Now we follow the law and the constitution. But when a political party deviates from this path, the situation inside Pakistan, who will stop the public? There are 220 million people.

Khan’s party has staged mass protests, but Pakistan’s government and security forces fear the former cricketer’s popularity could still draw millions to the streets. It could put 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 rising global food prices due in part. to Russia’s war against Ukraine.

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On Sunday, internet access advocacy group NetBlocks said the country’s internet services blocked access to YouTube after Khan broadcast the speech on the platform despite a ban issued by the Pakistani Broadcasting Authority. regulation of electronic media.

Police arrested Khan’s political aide Shahbaz Gill earlier this month after he appeared on private ARY TV and urged soldiers and officers to refuse to obey ‘orders’. illegals” of military leaders. Gill was charged with treason, which carries the death penalty under Pakistan’s sedition law which stems from a British law dating back to colonial times. ARY also remains off the air in Pakistan after this broadcast.

Khan alleged that police abused Gill while in police custody. According to police, Gill suffers from asthma and was not ill-treated while in custody.

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Gill was released from hospital to attend a hearing on Monday. He appeared in good health in television footage as he left for court under tight security. The court then ordered that he be remanded in custody for two days of questioning, Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb said. He will likely appear in court again on Thursday.

Khan’s speech on Saturday in Islamabad focused mainly on Gill’s arrest.

Meanwhile, police have separately arrested journalist Jameel Farooqi in Karachi over his allegations that Gill was tortured by police. Farooqi is a strong supporter of Khan.

– Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

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