Ex-Pakistan PM Khan granted new bail as army vows to 'tighten noose'

AFP , Thursday 8 Jun 2023

Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan had his bail renewed in over a dozen cases Thursday, a month after his three-day detention sparked violence, thousands of arrests, and the resignations of much of his party's leadership.

Imran Khan
Former Pakistan s prime minister Imran Khan (R) holds a protective shield upon his arrival at the High Court in Islamabad on June 8, 2023. AFP


The 70-year-old former international cricket star, facing more than 150 cases registered against him since his ousting in April last year, appeared at two courts in the capital, Islamabad.

"Imran Khan is granted bail till June 19 in eight cases registered against him under the anti-terrorism legislation," one of his lawyers, Sher Afzal Marwat, told AFP.

Gohar Khan, another lawyer, said a different court had extended bail in nine other cases.

His arrest and detention following a court appearance last month sparked nationwide protests, including a mob torching the residence of a senior army commander.

Pakistan has been mired in economic and political crisis for over a year, with little respite expected ahead of an election that must be held by mid-October.

Khan appeared to be riding a wave of popularity towards those polls, holding huge rallies across the country, sweeping a string of by-elections, and vilifying authorities in addresses to the nation broadcast nightly on social media.

But the violence following his arrest, particularly targeting military installations, led to a sweeping crackdown that threatens his political survival and that of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

The army holds undue influence over Pakistan politics, having staged at least three successful coups leading to decades of martial law.

Late Wednesday, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the military's publicity wing, vowed to tighten "the noose of law" around those involved in violence.

Following a meeting of the army's top commanders, a statement said the "ill design of inimical forces will be dealt with iron hands".

Thousands have already been arrested, with some facing trial by military courts, a process condemned by local and international rights groups.

Khan denies inciting the violence and says attacks against military targets were "black ops" to give authorities an excuse to arrest him and outlaw his party.

"I want to tell my nation that I am ready to face jail... I will never bow down to this unfair and autocratic regime," he said Wednesday in his latest address broadcast on YouTube.

"I also request you not to bow down, as the moment you succumb to this unjust and autocratic rule, the existence of our nation will be jeopardised."

Mass resignations have left Khan increasingly isolated at his home in the eastern city of Lahore, from where he ventures out only for court appearances.

Late Wednesday several senior politicians who quit PTI in recent weeks announced the formation of a new party, Istehkam-e-Pakistan -- the Pakistan Stability party.

Khan's latest court appearance comes a day before the government is due to present its 2023-24 budget before the national assembly.

The cash-strapped government is also set to present its economic survey for 2022-23 later Thursday, but details leaked to local media show it missed every key growth target for the year.

GDP growth was just 0.3 percent against a target of five percent, while industrial output, agriculture and exports all fell well short of targets.

Pakistan's year-on-year inflation hit a record 37.97 percent in May, official data revealed last week, with the nation on the brink of economic collapse and crucial IMF bailout talks stalled.

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