On Monday, Pakistani police charged former Prime Minister Imran Khan under anti-terror laws. The charge comes after the former leader had given speeches among his supporters in which he threatened to sue a female judge and police personnel and claimed that a close aide had been tortured after getting arrested.
Since being ousted from government in April by a vote of no-confidence, Khan has been staging large demonstrations across the nation to reclaim his position. The politician, a former cricket player, claims that a “foreign plot” was to blame for his dismissal.
The dynamic politician was chosen as prime minister in 2018, but at the end of his term, he had issues with Pakistan’s powerful army. He had a majority in parliament until a number of his supporters resigned.
The police investigation follows a ban on Khan’s speeches by the nation’s top media watchdog for “promoting hate speech” against “state institutions and personnel,” which increased political tensions in the country.
The police report from the rally cited Khan’s statements, saying that he “would not spare” Islamabad’s police chief and a female judge for the arrest of his aide. “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.
Amid word of Khan’s arrest, thousands of the former leader’s supporters vowed to keep Khan out of jail as they regrouped outside his hilltop mansion in the capital, Islamabad, on Monday. Protestors stormed and swore that if the government took Khan into custody, they would “take over.” Alongside threats of taking over came slogans bashing the nation’s current Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, who was put into power in April following Khan’s removal.
Khan was granted a so-called “protective bail” by an Islamabad court for the next three days, prohibiting authorities from detaining him until at least Thursday. If convicted, Khan faces up to several years in prison for the newly allocated charges that accuse the former leader of threatening police officers and a judge. Luckily for Khan, he has yet to have been arrested on lesser charges against him during his recent anti-government campaign.
Separately, on Monday, the Islamabad high court issued a contempt notice to Khan for threatening a judge in his Saturday speech.
Fawad Chaudhry, a former information minister and a senior leader of Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI), warned of “political and administrative consequences” if Khan was arrested. The Khan supporter also told the Guardian from the court that he was waiting for the charges to be quashed.
While Political analyst and journalist, Nusrat Javed, claimed that Khan’s statements had invited the state to pursue him, “His tirade against the military establishment and judiciary has pushed him to a place where he can be arrested soon. We need to understand that Khan is the only face of his party, and he is a charismatic leader and crowd-puller. Once he is arrested, I don’t think his party leadership can protest for more than three days. His party is in power in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, and they would not damage the state buildings there.”
It remains unknown if Khan is at home. He has yet to address his latest charge.
The uneasiness of where Pakistan currently rests leaves the threat of street violence sitting at the feet of both the Pakistani government and Khan himself.