ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said police had cordoned off his home in the eastern city of Lahore for possible arrest again, raising fears of a repeat of violent clashes between his supporters and security forces last week.
A minister in Punjab province alleged that Khan had been harboring scores of people, who had allegedly attacked government and military property. The former cricket star, who denies the allegations, has been given until 2pm local time, Thursday, to hand over the suspects.
This marks a further escalation in the confrontation between Khan, 70, and the military, which has great influence over security and domestic politics. In recent days, the military has publicly condemned those identified as Khan’s supporters for instigating last week’s attacks and vowed to prosecute the perpetrators in military courts.
“This is the most unprecedented crackdown,” Khan told the UK’s Channel 4 in an interview published Thursday morning. “In the 27 years of my party’s existence, we have never indulged in violent protests, and now 7,500 people have been arrested in my party. All the top leaders have been arrested.”
Khan called for the formation of a judicial commission headed by the chief justice to investigate attacks on state property and the army. He warned that the government might take the next step to ban his party since it began calling the group a terrorist organization.
There are no raid or arrest plans yet. “The spread is normal and routine,” a Lahore police spokesman said by phone. Khan’s home already had a heavy police unit on the outside for security, but this was also the scene of at least two other attempts to arrest him in March.
The politician known for his disturbing speeches was arrested last Tuesday in the country’s capital Islamabad by paramilitary forces in connection with a corruption case. The Supreme Court later ordered his release, describing his detention as illegal, and Khan’s legal team secured a protective bail for dozens of cases to prevent another arrest.
At least eight people were killed and hundreds injured in clashes that erupted between Khan’s supporters and security forces following his arrest. The escalating political crisis is taking place as Pakistan grapples with its worst economic crisis in decades, including the fastest inflation in Asia, and struggles to secure a $6.7 billion International Monetary Fund recovery.
Khan was ousted as prime minister in a no-confidence vote in April last year and has since sought to return to power by pressing for snap elections. His opponent, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, rejected his demands and said the government would complete its term, which ends in August.
To force national elections, Khan pushed for by-elections and his party dissolved the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where it holds a majority. The government has refused to hold those elections, saying there is insufficient funds and these regional elections must be held at the same time as the national vote later this year.
Khan remains very popular among Pakistanis, with a poll showing the majority blaming the current government for the economic crisis and difficult IMF reforms. His appearance at gatherings often attracts tens of thousands of people.
At one such gathering in November, Khan was shot in the leg. He blamed the government and the military for orchestrating the assassination attempt, which he vehemently denied. Matters came to a head earlier in May when Khan revived those allegations at a weekend rally and on social media, prompting the military to wage a public war of words with him before his arrest last week.
Khan’s allegations stem from Pakistan’s history where no prime minister has served a full five-year term. Those who lasted more than two years were either exiled or killed, including Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December 2007 during a campaign pause in an attack similar to the attack on Khan in November.
“They are very afraid of the elections because they are afraid that I will win,” Khan later told Al Jazeera, referring to the army and the ruling coalition. “They are doing everything to make sure I’m out of the race.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *