JOHN HAYWARD 18 May 2023

Pakistan Accuses Imran Khan of Harboring Terrorists, Prepares for Another Arrest Showdown

Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has been clashing with the government of his successor, Shehbaz Sharif, as he tries to return to power while dodging about a hundred corruption investigations, said on Wednesday he expects to be arrested again.

A legion of police officers has encircled the mob of Khan supporters encircling Khan’s house as the deadline approaches for him to hand over several dozen terrorism suspects he is allegedly sheltering.

“Probably my last tweet before my next arrest. Police has surrounded my house,” Khan said on Twitter, attaching a video of riot police deploying outside his home in Zaman Park, Lahore.

Khan also sent a vaguely threatening video message to the Sharif government, warning that if it escalated the confrontation, the outcome would not be “any good to anyone.”

Khan once again accused false-flag saboteurs of staging attacks last week on military assets after he was arrested, demanded a full investigation of his theories, and said he would accept nothing less than snap elections to resolve the “political crisis” surrounding his legal status:

“Any independent investigation will show that any people who came out for me were peaceful protesters,” he insisted.

Khan talked at some length about Pakistan’s history of using police and military force against political opponents and suggested all of the corruption charges pending against him are merely a pretext for forcing him out of the prime minister race before he can return to power and investigate the real corruption in Pakistan.

Khan claimed his supporters in the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party have been unfairly arrested, and “even women and children were being abducted and tortured,” which he said was a violation of Islamic religious teachings.

“Very humiliating and inhuman treatment was being [meted out] to women and all this was happening just to protect the loot of corrupt rulers,” he said, denouncing the Sharif government as “fascist.”

He said:

From past one year, attempts are being made to keep Imran Khan out of the politics despite knowing the fact that the PTI was the biggest and most popular political party of the country. No matter if they have to break the Constitution or violate the Supreme Court’s orders; they do not want to hold elections just to keep Imran Khan out of the politics.

Khan was ejected from the prime minister’s office by a parliamentary vote of no confidence in April 2022. He has been running a populist and Islamist campaign to return to the office ever since, using tactics such as mass resignations by PTI officeholders to force early elections in which he was put forward as the only PTI candidate for every seat.

An attempt was made on Khan’s life while he was campaigning in Waziribad in November. Khan accuses the Sharif government, Pakistani intelligence services, and the military of complicity in the attack, which left him with a bullet wound in the leg. The government and military take great exception to his accusations and have warned him of consequences if he continues to defame the influential Pakistani Army.

Khan ignored those warnings again on Wednesday, claiming that he knew the army was trying to overthrow or kill him when he was prime minister, but he took no action because he respected the military and felt it was vital to maintaining national stability.

“When I was the prime minister, I had reports that the then army chief was hatching conspiracy against me. I did not interfere into institutional affairs because I did not want to weaken the institution. I have conveyed the same to army on numerous occasions,” he said.

“I am afraid today that Pakistan is on the route to destruction,” he ominously concluded.

Police surrounded Khan’s residence in Zaman Park on Wednesday because many of the PTI members who rioted after Khan was arrested in a paramilitary operation last week have been designated as “terrorists,” and the provincial government claims Khan is harboring up to 40 of them in his house. Khan was granted bail and released on orders from the Pakistani Supreme Court after four days in custody, a decision that angered his critics because they believe the court showed favoritism to Khan and effectively placed him above the law.

Several previous attempts to arrest Khan were thwarted by his protective mob of supporters, but this time, the police are taking care to clear out camps of PTI members from Zaman Park before they move in. Roads and bridges leading to the area have been shut down.

PTI used its official Twitter account to denounce Khan’s impending arrest as an illegitimate order given by the “illegal caretaker government” of Shebaz Sharif and invited reporters to closely watch any action taken by the police.

The Associated Press reported on Thursday that the official deadline for Khan to hand over the terrorism suspects passed with “no immediate signs of unusual movement by the police.” A police official said his forces were on standby pending a final order to begin a raid. The official also said eight of the wanted suspects were captured while attempting to flee Khan’s home.

A spokesman for the Punjab provincial government said the police were armed and ready to use deadly force if Khan’s supporters interfere with their operations. The government wants to put the terrorism suspects on trial in a military court, a plan that troubles human rights activists because Pakistani military trials are notoriously opaque, and the accused are not always provided with legal counsel.

In addition to the standoff over alleged terrorists holed up in his house, on Friday, Khan refused to cooperate with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Pakistan’s primary anti-corruption agency. The NAB provided the warrant that led to his arrest last Tuesday.

The NAB summoned Khan to appear before a panel investigating one of the corruption charges against him, but he refused and sent a written response, instead.

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