Imran Khan: Pakistan military is ‘petrified’ of elections

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Imran Khan, former prime minister of Pakistan, is convinced the army is afraid of the elections because he would win
Image caption,

Imran Khan, former prime minister of Pakistan, is convinced the army is afraid of the elections because he would win

Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan has told BBC Hardtalk the military is petrified of an election, which is expected to take place later this year.

He alleged that “fascists” are leading the country into the “dark ages”.

Mr Khan was elected in 2018, ruled for just under four years, and was then ousted in a parliamentary no-confidence vote last year.

Observers say a big reason was him falling out of favour with the powerful military.

Pakistan’s military has for decades held a firm grip over how the country is run.

Mr Khan claims that his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party is “the only party that was not created by military dictators”, even though many critics argue that Mr Khan had the backing of the army during his rise to power.

He alleges that this is why there has been a campaign to dismantle it.

In the last few months, the party has seen significant defections, and arrests of key members. But Mr Khan insists it is intact.

“How come, despite the establishment openly going against us, trying to dismantle us, how come after we are out of government, we won 30 out of 37 by-elections?” he said in an interview with the BBC’s Stephen Sackur.

He said the establishment had hoped that his removal from power would weaken his party. “Normally, it happens when you’re out of power for quite a while. But instead, what happened was the party’s popularity kept growing,” Mr Khan said.

“They have tried everything. They have put 10,000 people in jail, including women and peaceful protesters. And worse, they have tortured people,” he said, adding that if the party was not “finished” as his detractors claimed, the authorities would have announced the date of the election.

Mr Khan’s supporters view him as a political outsider untouched by corruption, and have accused the military of engineering his removal from office – allegations that the army denies.

Mr Khan's arrest in May sparked nationwide protests that led to at least eight deathsIMAGE SOURCE,EPA
Image caption,

Mr Khan’s arrest in May sparked nationwide protests that led to at least eight deaths

The strength of his popularity was displayed when he was arrested from inside a court in May, sparking nationwide protests.

Thousands of his supporters marched through the streets, tearing through military buildings across Pakistan and setting some on fire. Many, including members of Mr Khan’s own party, have blamed him for crossing a red line and encouraging the violence.

However, the former international cricket star-turned-politician denies involvement in the arson cases, and said those cases need to be investigated separately.

“What did you think the supporters would do when they saw the army, the commander, was picking me up from there? Was there not going to be a protest?” he said.

Mr Khan has insisted that it was the military who incited the violence by sending soldiers instead of police officers to arrest him.

Speaking to the BBC from his two-storey mansion in Lahore, Mr Khan, who positions himself as a reformist, said: “The fact is that the country is on the brink of a major disaster. We are heading [into] what I feel like are the dark ages.

“The only solution to Pakistan is free and fair elections. That’s the only way we will get out of this mess,” he added.

A series of laws have been discussed in parliament over the last few months, many of which critics say are designed to make it more difficult for Mr Khan and his party to run in the election, if not prevent them from doing so entirely.

One of the bills tabled recommends three-year jail terms for anyone found guilty of disclosing the identity of an army intelligence officer.

This comes amid growing criticism by Mr Khan of the military and intelligence officers. He is the first politician to have publicly named senior intelligence officers, accusing them of conspiring against him.

“Unfortunately, the country has been taken over by fascists, and they are petrified of elections. The reason why I’m suffering is because they know that [in the] elections, we would win hands down. And because of that, they’re dismantling a democracy,” he said.

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