Police in the Pakistani capital have filed charges against former Prime Minister Imran Khan, 17 of his aides and scores of supporters, accusing them of terrorism and several other offences.
Sunday’s charges come in the backdrop of clashes between the supporters of Khan and security forces in Islamabad the previous day.
For hours on Saturday, Khan’s followers clashed with police outside a court where the former prime minister went to appear in a graft case. Riot police wielded batons and fired tear gas while Khan’s supporters hurled rocks at the officers.
More than 50 officers were injured and a checkpoint, several cars and motorcycles were torched, police said, adding that 59 of Khan’s supporters were arrested during the clashes.
The case against Khan was brought by the Election Commission of Pakistan, which accused the former prime minister of not declaring gifts received during his time in office, or the profit made from selling them.
After days of legal wrangling, Khan travelled more than 300 kilometres from Lahore to the Islamabad court complex, but was unable to get out of the car. Around 4,000 supporters gathered outside the complex, pelting stones and throwing bricks at police officers firing tear gas.
The court, however, accepted Khan’s attendance, his lawyers said.
Pakistan’s courts are often used to tie up lawmakers in lengthy proceedings that rights monitors criticise for stifling political opposition. Khan claims authorities want to throw him in jail so he is unable to campaign for upcoming elections.
Cases against other party members
Besides Khan, the case filed on Sunday accuses former and current lawmakers, former ministers, a former National Assembly speaker and scores of Khan’s supporters.
The charges include terrorism, obstructing police officers in carrying out their tasks, attacks on police, wounding officers and threatening their lives.
The developments are the latest involving increasing violence surrounding the 70-year-old Khan, who was ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament last April.
Since then, the former cricket star turned politician has claimed – without offering evidence – that his ouster was illegal and a conspiracy by the government of his successor, Shahbaz Sharif, and Washington.
Both Sharif and the United States have denied the allegations.
Also on Saturday, violence erupted again outside Khan’s home in the eastern city of Lahore, where officers and Khan’s supporters had clashed for two straight days in a standoff earlier last week, after police arrived in the upscale neighbourhood to arrest Khan.
Amid tear gas and clashes, police stormed Khan’s residence, and later said they arrested 61 suspects. Khan was not at home, having travelled to Islamabad for the court appearance.
After accepting Khan’s attendance, the judge postponed the hearing until March 30.