Pakistan’s Former Prime Minister Imran Khan Faces Dozens of Charges
A litany of accusations and impending arrest warrant pose a challenge to Khan’s political comeback
Islamabad, Pakistan – Since his removal from power last year, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has been slapped with dozens of charges, including some in which he faces arrest.
In an interview with Al Jazeera on Thursday, Khan said at least 85 cases have been filed against him across the country. “Every other day some sort of case comes up,” he said.
The cases against the 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician include charges of corruption, terrorism, contempt of courts, rioting and even blasphemy.
The immediate legal challenge Khan faces concerns the gifts he received from foreign countries when he served as prime minister between August 2018 and April 2022.
Prosecutors allege Khan sold those gifts and concealed his wealth in financial declarations submitted before the election commission.
On March 7, the High Court in Islamabad issued an arrest warrant against him in the case. The former premier evaded arrest and instead filed a petition in the same court requesting the cancellation of the warrant.
The court then asked Khan to appear before it on March 13. The opposition politician, who had been dodging court appearances citing threats to his life, did not show up.
A furious court then issued a non-bailable warrant against Khan, triggering violence in Lahore for two days as police, in their attempt to arrest him, clashed with hundreds of the politician’s supporters outside his home.
A trial court in Islamabad on Thursday rejected a petition by Khan to suspend the warrant for him to appear in court. The order increases the likelihood of another police attempt to arrest him.
The Islamabad High Court had earlier given Khan a deadline of March 18 to make an appearance.
On Thursday, he told Al Jazeera he will attend. “I am appearing in the court on the 18th,” he said, calling the police operation to arrest him four days before the deadline “unlawful”.
Khan also dismissed allegations about selling the state gifts he received. “Let me clarify this allegation about state gifts … Everything I have done is lawful,” he said.
Khan also faces “terrorism” charges over a speech he made during one of the many rallies he has been holding since losing power to demand immediate national elections.
Addressing his supporters in Islamabad in August last year, Khan made some remarks against his political opponents, and police and judicial officials. In his speech, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party chief named a female judge who had ordered the arrest of one of his close aides.
The statement against the judge led to a “terrorism” charge against Khan. If convicted, he even faces disqualification from contesting elections or holding public office in future – a setback he cannot afford as he seeks to return to power in national elections scheduled for later this year.
If Khan is arrested, the PTI has threatened mass protests, compounding the difficulties for a government already battling an economic crisis.
Following clashes between Khan’s supporters and the security forces earlier this week, police in Lahore filed several criminal charges against him.
The first information report, also called FIR, shows Khan has been accused of rioting, attempt to murder, abetment of violence and criminal conspiracy under the country’s anti-terrorism law.
Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act, passed in 1997, carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and even capital punishment.
Similar charges were also filed against Khan in October last year after his party workers protested outside the office of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
The demonstration was in reaction to the ECP’s decision to disqualify Khan from attending parliament for sessions over the state gifts case.
Khan was also charged with at least 17 cases in various police stations in Islamabad after a “long march” he led in May last year to protest his removal from power.
Nearly all the cases included charges of abetment of violence, rioting, damage to public property and criminal intimidation among others.
Khan was granted pre-arrest bail in all the cases.