Imran Khan charged
Pakistan’s political temperature shot up another notch when former Prime Minister Imran Khan was charged by police under anti-terrorism laws after making accusatory comments during a public rally.
While he has not responded to the charges himself, his lawyers appealed for pre-arrest bail on Monday at the Islamabad High Court, which granted Khan protective bail until Thursday, when he is likely to appear before an anti-terrorism court in the capital.
In a speech on Saturday evening in Islamabad to protest the arrest and alleged torture of his Chief of Staff Shahbaz Gill, Khan is accused of “threatening” state officials and promising to mount a legal challenge after Gill was arrested on August 9.
Khan singled out senior Islamabad police officials and a female judge who earlier in the week approved detaining Gill for two days. Gill faces sedition charges after he was accused of inciting mutiny against the country’s powerful military.
He accused police of torturing Gill in custody and said the charges against his ally were part of “a conspiracy” to pit his party against the military. Police have denied the torture allegations.
“When I asked Islamabad police ‘tell me what did you do [to Gill]’, I was told that ‘we did nothing. We got a boot from behind [to follow orders]’,” Khan said in his address.
Islamabad police denounced Khan’s comments and warned anybody “threatening the police or making false accusations will be dealt with according to the law”.
Pakistan’s media regulatory authority in a statement on Sunday accused Khan of levelling “baseless allegations” and “spreading hate speech” against “state institutions and officers”, and placed a ban on live broadcasts of his speeches on national television.
Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah also delivered a news conference on Sunday in which he said the government is exploring options to file a case against the former prime minister for his “provocative speech”.
The possibility of imprisonment
The police report against Khan includes testimony from Magistrate Judge Ali Javed, who described being at the Islamabad rally on Saturday and hearing Khan criticise the inspector general of Pakistan’s police and another judge.
“You also get ready for it, we will also take action against you. All of you must be ashamed,” Khan reportedly said.
Khan could face years in prison with the new charges, which accuse him of threatening police officers and the judge under the country’s sedition act, which has its roots in a British colonial-era law.
Khan may be sentenced to six months in prison in a contempt of court case, says former Sindh High Court chief justice, Justice (retired) Shaiq Usmani.
“If convicted in the case, he [Imran Khan] will be disqualified and not be able to contest elections for five years,” he said while speaking on Geo News programme ‘Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath‘ on Monday.
“Imran Khan’s contempt of court case is different from other ordinary contempt cases. It’s because he named a judge and said he would take action against her.”
Usmani said, “If a court gives a verdict against you, you can criticise the verdict, not the judge.” He said he sees the PTI chairman in jeopardy as he has made a big mistake out of excitement.
A case was registered against Imran Khan under the Anti-Terrorism Act for threatening an additional sessions judge and senior police officers of the Islamabad police at a rally in the federal capital’s F-9 Park.
The FIR was registered on the complaint of Magistrate Ali Javed in Islamabad’s Margalla Police Station under Section 7 of ATA.
The FIR states that the PTI chairman threatened Additional Sessions Judge Zeba Chaudhry and police officers to “terrorise” police officials and the judiciary. The main aim of the intimidation was to prevent the police officers and judiciary from carrying out their legal obligations, says the FIR.
The FIR states that Imran Khan’s speech was aimed to spread unrest and terror among the people.
Would civil unrest erupt?
The Pakistani opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has called for protests amid the possibility of the arrest of Khan.
Senior members of the PTI have called on party workers and supporters to take to the streets and protest against the possible arrest of the former PM.
Senior PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry has told party workers to gather at the former PM’s Bani Gala residence. The case against Imran Khan was registered late on Saturday night after his speech during a PTI rally.
Furthermore, PTI vice-chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi was reported as saying that party activists should remain prepared to take to the streets if Imran is arrested.