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Pakistani opposition warns that Khan’s arrest would be a ‘red line’

#Pakistani #opposition #warns #Khans #arrest #red #line

Pakistani opposition leaders warned on Monday that authorities would cross a “red line” in arresting former Prime Minister Imran Khan after he was charged under the Counter-Terrorism Law for his comments on the judiciary.

Since being ousted by a no-confidence vote in April, Khan has held mass rallies across the country and warned state institutions, including the military, against backing the coalition government led by his longtime political rival Shehbaz Sharif.

Hundreds of people gathered outside Khan’s home on Monday – ostensibly to prevent police from reaching him – but the former leader has been fighting a range of charges for months and so far has not been arrested.

“Wherever you are, reach out to Bani Gala today and show solidarity with Imran Khan,” former Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry tweeted, referring to Khan’s home.

“Imran Khan is our red line.”

A first intelligence report was filed with police on Sunday — the first step in a process that could lead to formal charges and arrests.

Khan’s lawyers preemptively applied to Islamabad’s high court for bail before arrest on Monday, which was granted until at least Thursday.

– “Careless” allegations –

There was a low-key police presence outside Khan’s residence on Monday, with around 500 party supporters gathering in the affluent suburb of Bani Gala.

Muhammad Ayub said he had traveled overnight from Peshawar in the northwest to show his support for Khan.

“We will protest and block roads if Khan is arrested,” he told AFP news agency.

In a statement, Khan’s Pakistani Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI) said the recent allegations against him were “frivolous”.

“We have serious reservations about this politically motivated step, which leads to further instability in the country,” it said.

On Saturday he criticized a judge responsible for keeping a PTI officer in police custody after party leaders said he was tortured in custody.

Khan’s main goal is early parliamentary elections – the next ones must be held before October next year – but the government has shown no signs of going to the polls as it grapples with major economic problems.

Khan came to power in 2018 thanks to an electorate weary of the dynastic politics of the country’s two main parties, with the former cricket star vowing to eradicate decades of entrenched corruption and nepotism.

But under his rule, the country’s economy went into freefall, and the International Monetary Fund suspended a $6 billion lending program that the new administration has only just gotten back on track.

Khan also lost military support.

Political analyst Hassan Askari Rizvi told AFP that filing the latest case against Khan was not a symbolic one, but a real attempt to choke him.

“The government is using state institutions to smear the opposition,” he said, adding that ordinary Pakistanis are being hurt by the political wrangling.

“The only thing left for the ruling party and the opposition to do is slander each other. In the current situation, the real priority should be the economy so that the common man gets some relief.”

Over the weekend, Pakistan’s media regulator banned TV channels from broadcasting live addresses of Khan, saying he was spreading hate speech.

“His provocative statements against state institutions and officials … are likely to disturb public peace and tranquility,” Pakistan’s electronic media regulator said.

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#Pakistani #opposition #warns #Khans #arrest #red #line

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