By Amjad Ali
Lahore, Pakistan, Mar 18 (EFE).- Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has claimed that a string of court cases against him are meant to end his political career and prevent him from exposing the military’s role in the no-confidence motion that ousted him from power last year, even as his supporters continued to surround his residence on Sunday and defy the authorities that tried to disperse them by force a day earlier.
Khan spoke to EFE in an interview from his residence in the eastern city of Lahore, shortly before he traveled to Islamabad to appear for a court-hearing on Saturday along with hundreds of supporters, with the hearing being adjourned until Mar. 30 by a judge due to violent clashes between the police and the ex-PM’s entourage.
“They are trying everything to get me out of the race because they feel that if I come into power I might hold accountable those who removed me from power,” Khan said at his residence, turned into a fortress by the supporters of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party who have thwarted multiple attempts to arrest him since Mar. 5, citing a threat to his life.
Khan, whose latest court appearance was in relation to allegations of unlawfully selling gifts received during his term, is facing as many as 96 other cases on different charges including blasphemy, terrorism, murder, sedition and corruption.
According to the former PM, the current government and its institutions were conspiring to stop him from participating in the general elections scheduled for October, as part of a larger conspiracy allegedly hatched by former Pakistani military chief Qamar Bajwa during Khan’s term.
Khan said that since being ousted from power, he was facing the most difficult epoch of his career due to two major challenges: the multiple court cases and threats to his life.
The cricketer-turned-politician received bullet injuries on both his legs during an assassination attempt in November 2021 in the middle of a massive march against the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, later accusing interior minister Rana Sanaullah and a high-ranking intelligence officer Faisal Naseer of orchestrating the attack.
Khan claims that his relations with Bajwa – the military chief during his term – soured after he adopted a neutral stance to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which led to the general conspiring to oust him from power.
“The army chief on his own (…) came up with this policy of condemning Russia which wasn’t the policy of my government. He should have been court-martialed for that,” the ex-PM lamented.
He added that even though the civil-military relationship in Pakistan – which has been ruled by military juntas for decades – was evolving well but the (military) establishment still enjoyed significant political influence.
“You cannot have a system where the elected prime minister has the responsibility (through public mandate) but the authority lies with the establishment,” Khan insisted, using a term often used to indirectly refer to the powerful military.
The PTI leader, who is considered the most charismatic leader in the country by many, said that the winner of the upcoming elections should be able to exercise their will, even if their power is on par with that of the military.
“Pakistan is still an emerging evolving democracy but this balance (of power) has to take place,” he signed off. EFE