Nabeel Zafar looks at hardening of Imran Khan charged under anti-terror law
In an interesting twist the matter of charging Imran Khan under anti-terrorism charges was raised in the United Nations eliciting a response from Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for Secretary General Antonio Guterres who said that the UN chief was aware of the charges brought against former Pakistani PM Imran and emphasised that the need for a competent, independent and impartial legal process. He added that the UN secretary general urges calm, lowering of tensions and respect for the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms. The issue was also raised on the portals of US department of state department whose spokesman Ned Price also mentioned that he was aware of the charges but hedged the query by stating that this was a matter for the Pakistani legal and judicial system.
Earlier Imran Khan had threatened to file cases against Islamabad’s inspector general of police and deputy inspector general of police declaring that they will not be spared. He then warned the judiciary against its biased attitude towards his party saying that it should brace itself for the consequences. He also warned additional district and sessions judge Zeba Chaudhry, who had approved two-day physical remand of his chief of staff Shahbaz Gill’s on the request of the capital police that she would also face dire consequences. His outburst resulted in him being booked in a terrorism case.
Consequently, Imran Khan had approached the Islamabad High Court for seeking bail before arrest that was granted for three days. While granting bail the Islamabad High Court took strong exception against Imran Khan’s threatening the female judge and decided to initiate contempt of court proceedings against him and constituted a larger bench to hear the matter. A show cause notice was accordingly issued to him and he was asked to appear before the court in his personal capacity.
This development indicates hardening of attitude of the official machinery against Imran Khan’s aggressive posture that he has adopted after being removed from office last April. For some time it appeared that the capital police will arrest him forcing hundreds of his supporters to gather outside his Bani Gala to prevent his arrest residence chanting slogans against the government of the prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif whose interior minister is almost as aggressive as Khan and is apparently vying for a trial of strength with the former prime minister.
The situation apparently aggravated when PEMRA, Pakistan’s media watchdog banned television channels from broadcasting live addresses by Imran Khan after his rally in Islamabad resulting in temporary breakdown of YouTube due to the convergence of massive viewership on the social media platform. The use of anti-terrorism laws as the basis of cases against political leaders is not uncommon in Pakistan, where Imran Khan’s government also used them against opponents and critics. But the spectre of Khan’s arrest has made his followers threatening the authorities of serious consequences if that happens. Hundreds of his supporters also gathered at Lahore late night to protest against his imminent arrest though it was reported that he slipped away from his residence to avoid getting arrested.
Since his ouster from office last April after failing to secure a vote of confidence from the parliament Imran Khan despite violating the constitution in an attempt to stop the vote going ahead. After his ouster he is venting his anger against hidden forces whom he calls as X and Y without getting specific. The closest he comes to identify his hidden adversaries is when he calls them neutral hinting at Pakistan’s powerful military establishment. Since April Imran Khan is vigorously touring the country with his rallies getting large attendance in which he accuses military, judiciary and media for his ouster from power and demanding fresh elections.
It is now getting clear that it is not only the civilian government who wants to arrest Imran Khan but it is widely reported that the establishment also wants him arrested. When asked about the reaction that his arrest would provoke, there exists a difference of opinion between political observers with some saying that since heads a one-man political party therefore the secondary leadership would not be able to resist and protest for long whereas others opine that a serious law and order situation could emerge that would be difficult to contain.
Imran Khan has proved to be a curious phenomenon in the political annals of the country whose cult following and an overactive social media presence in the country has made him a larger-than-life presence that has clearly caused divisions within the social fabric of the country that is getting serious by the day. Despite his failure as the modern face of Pakistan after a dismal performance for more than three years at the helm of affairs, he has remarkably kept his fan following intact and has become a problem for his opponents to handle him. TW