Pakistani government steps up pressure on ex-PM Imran Khan – News

Khan could be disqualified from politics for life if found guilty of insulting Judge Zeba Chaudhry



Photo: AP

By AP

Published: Tue, Aug 23, 2022, 1:43 PM

Last update: Tue, Aug 23, 2022, 1:44 PM

Pakistan’s government on Tuesday stepped up pressure on former prime minister Imran Khan who staged mass rallies, seeking to return to office, with an Islamabad court set to initiate contempt proceedings over his verbal threats to a judge at a weekend rally.

Meanwhile, police raided the flat of Khan’s close aide Shahbaz Gill overnight in the Pakistani capital, taking him away in handcuffs for questioning.

The developments came two days after authorities filed terrorism charges against Khan, heightening political tensions in the country. In a speech at a rally on Saturday, Khan pledged to prosecute police officers and a female judge, Zeba Chaudhry, and alleged that Gill had been tortured after his initial arrest earlier this month.

Khan, who came to power in 2018 and was ousted in April in a no-confidence vote in parliament, could be disqualified from politics for life if found guilty of insulting Chaudhry. The terrorism charge against him could lead to several months to 14 years in prison, the equivalent of a life sentence.

Gill has been charged with treason for his recent anti-army remarks during a show on private ARY television, in which he urged soldiers and officers to disobey “illegal” orders from military leaders. The treason charge against Gill carries the death penalty under an act of sedition that stems from a British colonial-era statute. ARY TV remains off the air in Pakistan after this broadcast.

Since his ousting, Khan has alleged – without providing evidence – that Pakistan’s powerful military was part of a US plot to oust him. Washington, the Pakistani military and the government of Khan’s successor, Shahbaz Sharif, have all denied the allegation.

The latest trouble for Khan began at Saturday’s rally when he slammed Chaudhry, saying: ‘You too get ready, we will take action against you too. You should all be ashamed.

The Sharif government is unhappy with Khan for his threats, and although courts generally pardon offenders if they apologize, some politicians have been convicted in the past for disobeying or insulting judges.

It was unclear whether Khan would attend Tuesday’s hearing or send his lawyer.

Ahsan Bhoon, a lawyer who heads the Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association, welcomed the proceedings against Khan, saying no one should be allowed to insult a judge or damage the reputation of the judiciary.

Khan came to power promising to break the pattern of family rule in Pakistan. His opponents argue he was elected with the help of the mighty military, which has ruled the country for half of its 75-year history.

Since his ouster, Khan has also demanded a snap election and pledged to overthrow Sharif’s government through “pressure from the people”.

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