Imran Khan, ex-cricketer and country leader, charged with terrorism

Islamabad: Pakistan’s former prime minister, Imran Khan, has been charged under the country’s anti-terrorism act in a drastic escalation of the tense power struggle with the country’s current government that threatens to set off a fresh round of public unrest and turmoil.

The charges on Monday AEST came a day after Khan, a former cricket star who was ousted from power in a no-confidence vote in April, gave an impassioned speech to hundreds of supporters at a rally in the capital, Islamabad, condemning the recent arrest of one of his top aides and threatening senior police officers and a judge involved in the case.

“We will not spare you,” Khan said, vowing to file legal cases against them.

Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan, centre, addresses his party supporters in Lahore last week.Credit:AP

The police report detailing the charges against Khan said his comments amounted to an illegal attempt to intimidate the country’s judiciary and police force, local news outlets reported.

Khan had not yet been arrested and was in Islamabad, according to Fawad Chaudhry, a senior leader of his political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

Khan remains a powerful force in Pakistani politics. In recent months, the charismatic populist leader has drawn tens of thousands to his rallies across the country, and his party has parlayed that influence into electoral success.

Supporters of Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party attend a rally o press government for fresh elections, in Lahore on August 13.Credit:AP

Still, as Khan fights to make a political comeback, he and his supporters face a crackdown aimed at curtailing his party’s electoral success, analysts say.

Pakistan’s media regulatory authority banned the live broadcast of his speeches on news television channels. Several journalists and talk show hosts who are sympathetic to Khan say they have been harassed and threatened by the state authorities in recent weeks.

And a senior aide to Khan, Shahbaz Gill, was imprisoned this month, accused of making anti-military comments on a television talk show. His call for military officers to defy orders from the top brass was an attempt to incite rebellion within the ranks, officials said.

As word about his likely arrest spread, his party workers and supporters gathered at Khan’s palatial residence on the outskirts of the capital and chanted slogans against the government.

“Hundreds of people are gathered at the residence of Mr Khan, and thousands are headed here from other parts of the country to express support for their leader,” Chaudhry said. “Police have now retreated after looking at the huge number of people here. Let’s see what happens next.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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