Ex-Pakistan PM’s supporters vow to block his arrest on terrorism charges

by Jacob Fuller


Supporters of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan gathered outside his home on Monday to stop police from arresting him on anti-terrorism charges related to a weekend televised speech.

Police filed charges against former cricket star Khan on Saturday over what they said was a threat in the speech in which he spoke about police torture of an aide who faces sedition charges for inciting mutiny in the military.

“We will not spare you,” Khan said in the speech, in which he named the police chief and the judge involved in the case against his aide. “We will sue you.”

Police cited that comment in a report seen by Reuters.

“The purpose of the speech was to spread terror amongst the police and the judiciary and prevent them from doing their duty,” police said in the report.

Dozens of supporters gathered outside his home on Monday chanting slogans against the government and the police.

“They will have to run over us before they can reach Khan,” supporter Sher Jahan Khan said outside Khan’s hilltop home overlooking the capital, Islamabad.

“If Imran Khan is arrested … we will take over Islamabad with people’s power,” a former minister in Khan’s cabinet, Ali Amin Gandapur, threatened in a post on Twitter.

Later in the day, a court granted Khan three days of pre-arrest bail, Khan’s lawyer, Babar Awan, told reporters, after which the protesters began to disperse.

Khan was prime minister from 2018 until April this year when he was forced to step down after losing a confidence vote in parliament. Since then, he has been campaigning for new elections.

Khan appeared at the main gate of his home to wave to supporters, according to a tweet posted on the official page of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

Khan was not available for comment but Fawad Chaudhry, a spokesman for the PTI, dismissed the accusations against Khan as politically motivated, telling reporters they were being used to block Khan from leading anti-government rallies.

The use of anti-terrorism laws as the basis of cases against political leaders is not uncommon in Pakistan, where Khan’s government also used them against opponents and critics.

Khan rose to power with what political analysts said was the support of the military and he won the election on a conservative agenda that appealed to many middle-class and religious voters.

But analysts said Khan fell out with the military after a dispute over the appointment of a spy chief.

Khan denied ever having military support and the military, which has ruled the country for more than three decades of Pakistan‘s 75-year history, denies involvement in civilian politics.

Copyright 2022 Thomson/Reuters