Pakistan's parliament summoned in midst of crisis over former PM Khan

A supporter of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, walks with a riot shield used by the police, during a clash outside the federal judicial complex in Islamabad, Pakistan March 18, 2023. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -Pakistan's parliament is to meet in a special joint session on Wednesday to "take important decisions" to enforce the state's authority, media reported, in the midst of prolonged anti-government defiance by former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Former cricket star Khan was prime minister from 2018 until 2022, when he was ousted from office in a parliamentary vote. Since then, he has been demanding a new election and holding protests across the country to press his case.

His supporters have clashed with police several times over recent days as authorities try to force him to appear in court in connection with various cases brought against him.

The office of the speaker of parliament, in calling Wednesday's joint session, did not give a reason but the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said the ruling coalition had called for parliament to "take important decisions" to ensure the writ of the state was enforced.

The APP, reporting on a meeting attended by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his cabinet, cited the participants as saying Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was not a political party but "rather a gang of militants", and its "enmity against the state" could not be tolerated.

Sharif has rejected Khan's demand for a new election saying it would be held as scheduled later this year.

Parliament will meet in the capital, Islamabad, as Khan's supporters gather for his latest rally in the eastern city of Lahore.

The clashes between Khan's supporters and the security forces have brought a new round of political instability to the nuclear-armed country of 220 million people, which is in the midst of a crippling economic crisis.

Khan says the government and the powerful military are trying to stop him from contesting the next election, scheduled for November. If convicted in a case, Khan could face disqualification from the polls.

Both the government and military deny this.

Police have arrested hundreds of Khan's supporters in raids in recent days in response to the clashes.

Khan appeared on Tuesday before the Lahore High Court to apply for protective bail in fresh cases against him, PTI leader Mussarat Jamshed Cheema told Reuters.

The former prime minister is also appearing before a bench hearing a case he has filed against the police for raiding his home, which he says was in violation of court orders granting him protective bail last week.

(Reporting by Gibran Peshimam in Islamabad and Mubasher Bukhari in Lahore; Editing by Robert Birsel and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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