Monday, October 2, 2023

New arrest warrant issued for former Pakistani PM, Imran Khan

Pakistan’s Election Commission has issued an arrest warrant for former Prime Minister Imran Khan. The ex-premier faces a contempt charge for allegedly using “intemperate language” against government officials.

The electoral authority handed down a non-bailable arrest warrant on Monday, instructing the Islamabad Inspector General to bring Khan into custody over “contemptuous remarks” he is accused of making about the commission, multiple local media outlets reported. The former prime minister is expected to appear before officials on Tuesday.

Khan’s political party, Pak­istan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), later shared an image of the warrant on social media, showing only the first page of the document.

The contempt charges were launched against the former prime minister and other PTI officials last year, with the commission previously asking them to appear in person to explain their position. However, Khan and his fellow party members challenged the order in the courts, arguing that the election body had abused its power.

In January, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the government, allowing it to continue the proceedings against Khan, who skipped another hearing set earlier this month.

A senior Election Commission official said the warrant was “meant only for ensuring the presence of the suspect before the bench,” as reported by the newspaper Dawn, adding that Khan would be a “free man” afterward.

Now one of Pakistan’s top opposition leaders, Khan said he is “ready for jail” in a statement to supporters that was shared online after the news of the warrant broke.

Khan has faced a long list of charges since he was removed from office in a no-confidence vote last year, including “terrorism.” One year after his ouster, the 70-year-old politician and former cricket star was arrested in connection to a corruption case, triggering a wave of violent protests across Pakistan. He was released on bail within a matter of days, but later arrested again in a separate case.

Khan initially claimed he was overthrown in a coup at the behest of the US, but later told the Financial Times he no longer blames Washington, adding that Pakistan “must have good relationships with everyone, especially the United States.” He continues to point the finger at Pakistan’s army, however, maintaining that military officials played a major role in his removal from power and his subsequent legal cases.

With Pakistan’s next election set for November 10 at the latest, Khan has said the country’s military leadership is seeking to prevent him from running. “It’s all dependent on the establishment feeling that PTI will no longer be able to win the elections,” Khan told Bloomberg last month. “Once they are sure of that, then they’ll announce elections.”

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