Islamabad – The Pakistani government on Tuesday stepped up pressure on former prime minister Imran Khan, who has been holding massive rallies, demanding his return to office, after an Islamabad court held a weekend rally in contempt over his verbal threats to a judge. Ready to start proceedings.
Meanwhile, police raided the apartment of Khan’s close aide Shahbaz Gill in the Pakistani capital overnight and took him in handcuffs for questioning.
The development came two days after authorities filed terrorism charges against Khan, triggering political tensions in the country. In a speech at a rally on Saturday, Khan vowed to prosecute police officers and a female judge, Zeba Chowdhury, and alleged that Gill was tortured following his initial arrest earlier this month.
Khan, who came to power in 2018 and was ousted in a no-confidence motion in Parliament in April, could be disqualified from politics for life if found guilty of insulting Chowdhury. Terrorism charges against him could carry a jail term of several months to 14 years, which is equivalent to a life sentence.
Gill has been charged with sedition for his recent anti-military remarks during a show on the private ARY TV in which he urged soldiers and officers to disobey “illegal” orders of military leaders. The treason charge against Gill carries the death penalty under treason. The act stemmed from a British colonial-era law that ARY TV remains off-air in Pakistan after that broadcast.
Since his expulsion, Khan has alleged – without providing evidence – that Pakistan’s powerful military participated in a US conspiracy to oust him. Washington, the Pakistani military and the government of Khan’s successor Shahbaz Sharif have all denied the allegations.
The latest crisis for Khan began at Saturday’s rally when he criticized Choudhary, saying, “You too get ready for this, we will also take action against you. Shame on you all.”
Sharif’s government is unhappy with Khan’s threats and although courts usually pardon criminals if they apologise, some politicians have been convicted in the past for disobeying or insulting judges.
It is not clear whether Khan will attend the court hearing on Tuesday or send his lawyer.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association’s lead lawyer Ahsan Bhun welcomed the proceedings against Khan, saying no one should be allowed to insult the judge or damage the prestige of the judiciary.
Khan came to power in Pakistan promising to break the pattern of family rule. His opponents argue that he was chosen with the help of the mighty military, which has ruled the country for half of its 75-year history.
Since his ouster, Khan has also called for early elections and vowed to remove Sharif’s government through “people’s pressure”.