Pakistani government steps up pressure on ex-PM Imran Khan

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ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Pakistani government on Tuesday stepped up pressure on former Prime Minister Imran Khan who has held mass rallies, seeking to return to office, with an Islamabad court set to initiate proceedings for outrage for his verbal threats to a judge during a weekend rally.

Meanwhile, police raided the flat of Khan’s close aide Shahbaz Gill overnight in the Pakistani capital and took him away in handcuffs for questioning.

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ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Pakistani government on Tuesday stepped up pressure on former Prime Minister Imran Khan who has held mass rallies, seeking to return to office, with an Islamabad court set to initiate proceedings for outrage for his verbal threats to a judge during a weekend rally.

Meanwhile, police raided the flat of Khan’s close aide Shahbaz Gill overnight in the Pakistani capital and took him away in handcuffs for questioning.

The developments came two days after authorities filed terrorism charges against Khan, heightening political tensions in the country. In a speech at a rally on Saturday, Khan pledged to prosecute police officers and a female judge, Zeba Chaudhry, and alleged that Gill had been tortured after his initial arrest earlier this month.

Khan, who came to power in 2018 and was ousted in April in a no-confidence vote in parliament, could be disqualified from politics for life if found guilty of insulting Chaudhry. The terrorism charge against him could lead to several months to 14 years in prison, the equivalent of a life sentence.

Gill has been charged with treason for his recent anti-army remarks during a show on private ARY television in which he urged soldiers and officers to disobey “illegal” orders from military leaders. The charge of treason against Gill carries the death penalty under a sedition law that stems from a colonial-era British statute. ARY TV remains off the air in Pakistan after this broadcast.

Since his ousting, Khan has alleged – without providing evidence – that Pakistan’s powerful military was part of a US plot to oust him. Washington, the Pakistani military and the government of Khan’s successor, Shahbaz Sharif, have all denied the allegation.

The latest trouble for Khan began at Saturday’s rally when he slammed Chaudhry, saying: ‘You too get ready, we will take action against you too. You should all be ashamed.

The Sharif government is unhappy with Khan for his threats and although courts generally pardon offenders if they apologize, some politicians have been convicted in the past for disobeying or insulting judges.

It was unclear whether Khan would attend Tuesday’s hearing or send his lawyer.

Ahsan Bhoon, a lawyer who heads the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, welcomed the proceedings against Khan, saying no one should be allowed to insult a judge or damage the reputation of the judiciary.

Khan came to power promising to break the pattern of family rule in Pakistan. His opponents argue he was elected with the help of the mighty military, which has ruled the country for half of its 75-year history.

Since his ouster, Khan has also demanded a snap election and pledged to overthrow Sharif’s government through “pressure from the people”.

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