Pakistani police file terrorism charges against ex-PM Imran Khan
For hours on Saturday, Khan’s supporters clashed with police outside a court where the former prime minister was due to appear in a corruption case. Riot police wielded batons and fired tear gas while Khan’s supporters threw firebombs and threw rocks at officers.
More than 50 officers were injured and a police checkpoint, several cars and motorbikes were set on fire. Police said 59 of Khan’s supporters were arrested during the violence.
Khan never appeared in court to face charges of selling state gifts received while in office and concealing assets.
Besides Khan, the case filed on Sunday also accuses former and current lawmakers, former ministers, a former speaker of the National Assembly and dozens of Khan supporters. Charges include terrorism, obstructing police officers in the performance of their duties, attacks on police officers, injuring officers and threatening death.
The developments are the latest involving escalating violence around Khan, 70, who was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament last April. The former cricketer-turned-Islamist politician has since claimed – without providing evidence – that his ouster was illegal and a conspiracy between the government of his successor, Shahbaz Sharif, and Washington. Sharif and the United States have denied the allegations.
Also on Saturday, violence erupted again outside Khan’s home in the eastern city of Lahore, where officers and Khan supporters had clashed for two consecutive days to a stalemate early last week after the police arrived in the uptown area to arrest Khan. Amid tear gas and clashes, police stormed Khan’s residence and later said they arrested 61 suspects and seized Molotov cocktails, weapons and ammunition. Khan was not at home, having traveled to Islamabad for the court appearance. After he failed to appear in court, the judge postponed that hearing to March 30.
In a recorded video message broadcast on Sunday, Khan accused police of failing to appear in court on Saturday, saying he never left his vehicle as police fired tear gas at his convoy and supporters.
Without offering anything to back up his claims, Khan said his opponents were determined to jail or kill him, and denounced the raid on his home in Lahore as “shameful tactics, plots and plans”.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah accused Khan of “creating all the drama just to avoid” the courts.