Supporters of Pakistan's former PM Khan vow to block his arrest

  • World
  • Monday, 22 Aug 2022

FILE PHOTO: Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during an interview with Reuters in Islamabad, Pakistan June 4, 2021. REUTERS/Saiyna Bashir/File Photo

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -Supporters of former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan gathered outside his home on Monday to stop police arresting him on anti-terrorism charges related to a threat police say he made against a police chief and a judge.

The political tension stems from comments the former cricket star is accused of making in a speech, at a rally of his supporters televised live on Saturday, against the police chief and a judge in response to the arrest of one of Khan's aides.

"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.

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 a new election but Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has rejected that demand.

Dozens of supporters gathered outside his home from early on Monday chanting slogans against the government and the police. Islamabad police declined to confirm that they intended to arrest Khan but Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has said he could be arrested.

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

Some supports of Khan warned of trouble if police took action.

"If Imran Khan is arrested ... we will take over Islamabad with people's power," a former minister in Khan's cabinet, Ali Amin Gandapur, said in a post on Twitter.

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.

Later on Monday, a court defused the immediate tension by granting Khan three days of pre-arrest bail, Khan's lawyer, Babar Awan, told reporters. The supporters began to disperse upon hearing that.

Police filed charges against Khan on Saturday over what they said was a threat against officials in the speech in which he spoke about the alleged torture by police of one of his aides, who faces sedition charges for inciting mutiny in the military. [L8N2ZM2Q8]

"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.

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.

Khan rose to power in 2018 with what political analysts said was the support of the powerful military and he won 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 directly for over three decades of Pakistan's 75-year history, denies involvement in civilian politics.

(Additional Reporting by Syed Raza Hasan in Karachi; Writing by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel)

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