Friday, October 27, 2023

Accusations Against Pakistan’s Imran Khan: Explained


Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has been hit with dozens of charges since his removal from power last year, including corruption, terrorism, contempt of courts, rioting, and blasphemy. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Khan revealed that at least 85 cases have been filed against him across the country. The immediate legal challenge he faces concerns the gifts he received from foreign countries during his tenure as prime minister between August 2018 and April 2022. Prosecutors allege that Khan sold those gifts and concealed his wealth in financial declarations submitted before the election commission. On March 7, the High Court in Islamabad issued an arrest warrant against him in the case. The former premier evaded arrest and instead filed a petition in the same court requesting the cancellation of the warrant. The court then asked Khan to appear before it on March 13. However, he did not show up, citing threats to his life. A furious court then issued a non-bailable warrant against Khan, triggering violence in Lahore for two days as police clashed with hundreds of the politician’s supporters outside his home. A trial court in Islamabad on Thursday rejected a petition by Khan to suspend the warrant for him to appear in court, increasing the likelihood of another police attempt to arrest him. The Islamabad High Court had earlier given Khan a deadline of March 18 to make an appearance. On Thursday, he told Al Jazeera he will attend.

Khan also faces “terrorism” charges over a speech he made during one of the many rallies he has been holding since losing power to demand immediate national elections. Addressing his supporters in Islamabad in August last year, Khan made some remarks against his political opponents, and police and judicial officials. In his speech, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party chief named a female judge who had ordered the arrest of one of his close aides. The statement against the judge led to a “terrorism” charge against Khan. If convicted, he even faces disqualification from contesting elections or holding public office in future – a setback he cannot afford as he seeks to return to power in national elections scheduled for later this year.

Following clashes between Khan’s supporters and the security forces earlier this week, police in Lahore filed several criminal charges against him. The first information report shows that Khan has been accused of rioting, attempt to murder, abetment of violence, and criminal conspiracy under the country’s anti-terrorism law. Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and even capital punishment. Similar charges were also filed against Khan in October last year after his party workers protested outside the office of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The demonstration was in reaction to the ECP’s decision to disqualify Khan from attending parliament for sessions over the state gifts case.

Khan was also charged with at least 17 cases in various police stations in Islamabad after a “long march” he led in May last year to protest his removal from power. Nearly all the cases included charges of abetment of violence, rioting, damage to public property, and criminal intimidation among others. However, Khan was granted pre-arrest bail in all the cases.

If Khan is arrested, the PTI has threatened mass protests, compounding the difficulties for a government already battling an economic crisis. The cases against the 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician have raised concerns about political victimization and selective accountability in Pakistan. Critics argue that the government is using the legal system to silence opposition voices and suppress dissent. However, supporters of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government claim that it is committed to rooting out corruption and holding all individuals accountable for their actions regardless of their political affiliations.

The ongoing legal battles have also highlighted the challenges faced by Pakistan’s judiciary system. The country’s courts are often criticized for being slow and inefficient, with many cases taking years or even decades to be resolved. There are also concerns about political interference in the judiciary system and the lack of independence of judges.

In conclusion, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan faces multiple legal challenges, including corruption, terrorism, contempt of courts, rioting, and blasphemy charges. The ongoing legal battles have raised concerns about political victimization and selective accountability in Pakistan and highlighted the challenges faced by its judiciary system. As Khan prepares to appear before the court on March 18, all eyes will be on how the legal proceedings unfold and whether justice will be served impartially.

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