Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khanhas been charged under the anti-terror act following accusations of threats to police and a magistrate, after a fiery speech to supporters at the weekend.
Khan lost power in a no-confidence vote in April. He has been staging popular anti-government protests, escalating political tensions in the country as he seeks to return to office.
Khan himself appeared to still be free and had not immediately addressed the police charge sheet being lodged against him. Pakistan’s opposition Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI), Khan’s political party, published online videos showing supporters surrounding his home to potentially stop police from reaching it. Hundreds remained there early Monday.
The terrorism charges come over a speech Khan gave in Islamabad on Saturday, in which he vowed to sue police officers and a female judge and alleged that a close aide had been tortured after his arrest.
Under Pakistan’s legal system, police file what is known as a first information report about the charges against an accused to a magistrate judge, who allows the investigation to move forward. Typically, police then arrest and question the accused.
The report against Khan includes testimony from magistrate judge Ali Javed, who described being at the Islamabad rally and hearing Khan criticise the inspector-general of Pakistan’s police and another judge.
Khan went on to reportedly say: “You also get ready for it, we will also take action against you. All of you must be ashamed.”
Reuters could not immediately reach Khan for comment.
Khan could face several years in prison from the new charges, which accuse him of threatening police officers and the judge. However, he has not been detained on other lesser charges levied against him in his recent campaigning against the government.
Pakistan’s media watchdog banned television channels from broadcasting live addresses by Khan late Saturday night, after the rally in Islamabad.
Khan’s speeches were “prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order and likely to disturb public peace and tranquility”, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) said in a statement on Saturday.
It accused Khan of “continuously … levelling baseless allegations and spreading hate speech through his provocative statements against state institutions”.
It prohibited live broadcasts of his speeches by news channels, with immediate effect, but made an exception for recorded speech.
Pakistan’s government, police and its powerful army have been among the targets of Khan’s remarks.
After his ouster in April, Khan alleged without providing evidence that the military took part in a US plot to oust him. Washington, the Pakistani military and the government of Khan’s successor, prime minister Shahbaz Sharif, all have denied that.
Soon after Saturday’s television ban, Khan’s party vowed to go live on “500+ YouTube and Facebook channels”.
However, many Pakistani users of social media reported problems in accessing YouTube on Sunday, just as Khan was about to address a gathering in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.
In those comments, Khan said he was being censored for not accepting the current coalition government, which had voted him out of powerearlier this year.
Reuters, Associated Press and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report