The Pakistani police have charged Imran Khan under anti-terror law, authorities said on Monday, days after the former prime minister attacked the police and a judicial officer at a huge rally in the capital, Islamabad.
The police case comes a day after the country’s top media regulatory body imposed a ban on Khan’s speeches for “spreading hate speech” against “state institutions and officers”, escalating political tensions in the country.
He has been holding mass rallies across the country seeking to return to office since he was removed from power in April in a no-confidence motion. The cricketer-turned-politician has alleged his removal was a result of a “foreign conspiracy”.
In his speech on Saturday, Khan promised to sue police officers and a female judge as he alleged that a close aide had been tortured after his arrest.
He doubled down on his criticism of state institutions at another rally on Sunday, saying the police acted under pressure from “neutrals”, a common euphemism for Pakistan’s military establishment.
“On May 25 when police perpetrated violence against us, I was told by insiders that police acted under orders by above, which means they were under pressure by the neutrals to thrash PTI [Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf] workers,” he said at the rally in Rawalpindi.
“Are the neutrals really neutral?” he asked.
Khan could face several years in prison for the new charges, which accuse him of threatening police officers and the judge. However, he has not been arrested on other lesser charges against him during his recent campaigning against the government.
Khan has been granted protective bail until Thursday when he is likely to appear before an anti-terrorism court in capital Islamabad.
Under Pakistan’s legal system, the police usually file a first information report (FIR) about the charges against an accused to a magistrate judge, who allows the investigation to move forward. Typically, police then arrest and question the accused.
The report against Khan includes testimony from Judge Ali Javed, who described being at the Islamabad rally and hearing Khan criticise the inspector general of Pakistan’s police and another judge.
Khan reportedly said: “You also get ready for it, we will also take action against you. All of you must be ashamed.”
Khan’s PTI party posted videos online showing supporters surrounding his home apparently to stop police from reaching it. Hundreds remained there early on Monday.
“If Imran Khan is arrested … we will take over Islamabad with people’s power,” a former minister in his cabinet, Ali Amin Gandapur, threatened on Twitter, as some party leaders urged supporters to prepare for mass mobilisation.