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Ex-Pakistan PM faces terrorism charges as he seeks reinstatement – NBC10 Philadelphia

Pakistani police have charged former Prime Minister Imran Khan with terrorism, authorities said Monday, heightening political tensions in the country as the ousted prime minister has held mass rallies demanding his return to office.

The terrorism allegations followed Khan’s speech in Islamabad on Saturday, in which he vowed to sue police officers and a female judge and alleged that a close aide had been tortured after his arrest.

Khan himself appeared to be still at large and did not immediately address the charges against him to the police. Khan’s political party, Tehreek-e-Insaf, which is now in opposition, released videos online showing supporters surrounding his home to potentially prevent police from reaching him.

Hundreds remained there Monday morning. Tehreek-e-Insaf has warned that it will hold nationwide rallies if Khan is arrested.

Under Pakistan’s legal system, the police file a so-called first information report about the charges against the accused to a magistrate, who allows the investigation to move forward. Typically, the police then arrest and question the accused.

The report against Khan includes testimony from Justice of the Peace Ali Javed, who described being at a rally in Islamabad on Saturday and hearing Khan criticize Pakistan’s inspector general of police and another judge. Khan further said, “You also prepare for this, we will also take action against you. You should all be ashamed.”

Khan could face several years in prison on the new charges, which accuse him of threatening police officers and judges. However, he has not been detained on other lesser charges leveled against him in the recent campaign against the government.

Pakistan’s justice system also has a history of politicization and taking sides in power struggles between the military, the civilian government and opposition politicians, according to the Washington-based rights group Freedom House.

Khan came to power in 2018 on a promise to break Pakistan’s model of family rule. His opponents argue that he was elected with the help of a powerful army that has ruled the country for half of its 75-year history.

In seeking Khan’s ouster earlier this year, the opposition accused him of mismanaging the economy, with inflation soaring and the Pakistani rupee plummeting. A vote of no confidence in parliament in April that removed Khan from power capped months of political turmoil and a constitutional crisis that required the Supreme Court to intervene. Meanwhile, it turned out that the military also cooled to Khan.

Khan claimed, without providing evidence, that the Pakistani military was involved in a US plot to overthrow him. Washington, the Pakistani military and the government of Khan’s successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, all deny this. Meanwhile, Khan has been holding a series of mass rallies in an attempt to put pressure on Sharif’s government.

In his latest speech on Sunday night at a rally in the city of Rawalpindi outside Islamabad, Khan said so-called “neutrals” were behind the recent crackdown on his party. He had previously used the phrase “neutrals” for the military.

Internet access protection group NetBlocks said on Sunday that Internet services in the country blocked access to YouTube after Khan broadcast a live speech on the platform despite a ban by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority.

Police arrested Khan’s political aide Shahbaz Gill earlier this month after he appeared on private channel ARY TV and called on soldiers and officers to refuse to follow “illegal orders” from the military leadership. Gill was charged with treason, which is punishable by death under Pakistani law. ARY is also down in Pakistan after this broadcast.

Khan alleged that Gill was abused by the police during his detention. Police say Gill suffers from asthma and was not abused during his arrest. Khan’s speech in Islamabad on Saturday focused mainly on Gill’s arrest.

Meanwhile, police separately arrested journalist Jameel Farooq in Karachi over his claims that Gill was tortured by the police. Farooqui actively supports Khan.

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