‘Either Imran Khan exists or we do’, says Pakistan home minister

Rana Sanaullah’s remarks against Khan during a TV interview trigger a sharp reaction from the opposition PTI party.

Imran Khan
Khan's supporters holding sticks gather near his residence in Lahore [File: K M Chaudhry/AP]

Islamabad, Pakistan – Former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party has slammed “incendiary remarks” by the country’s home minister against his political rival.

In an interview on Sunday with a local news channel, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, the second-most powerful official in the government, issued what many say are not-so-veiled threats to Khan, 72, who since his removal from power last year has been demanding immediate elections.

“He [Khan] has brought the nation’s politics to a point where only one of us can exist,” Sanaullah said.

“When we feel our existence is being threatened, we will go to a point where we will not bother whether a move is democratic or not,” he added.

Calling Khan an “enemy” who is “incurable”, the minister said there will be “no normalcy or political stability” in the country so long as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party chief “exists”.

“He accuses us of plotting to kill him, and if he thinks we want to kill him, obviously he wants to kill us as well,” he said.

Khan’s PTI slammed the federal minister’s comments.

“A fight to the death? This is not an ordinary person talking but Pakistan’s interior minister. In any other country, he would have been made to resign,” party leader Taimur Jhagra told Al Jazeera.

“No one from the government has contradicted [the remarks]. No one has apologised. This exposes their real political values, and in a sad way, is also an honest admission of how afraid they are of Imran Khan.”

In a news conference on Sunday, senior PTI member Fawad Chaudhry asked if the minister was a “goon”.

“Is he doing politics or running a gang? This is not how politics is done. Politics is about listening to each other and moving on. You say we have reached to a point where Imran Khan remains or us, but we do not think of you like that,” he said.

Since his removal from power in April last year, Khan has held several rallies to demand immediate national elections. He was shot in the leg at one such rally in November.

Khan has repeatedly alleged a plot by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government and the powerful military to either jail or assassinate him ahead of the general polls due later this year.

In recent weeks, the bitter feud between the ruling coalition and the opposition leader has seen violent clashes between Khan’s supporters and the security forces in the capital Islamabad and his hometown Lahore.

Khan, a cricketer icon-turned-politician claims he has been slapped with more than 80 cases, including those related to alleged corruption and even “terrorism”. Sanaullah refuted the claim, saying there are nearly 40 cases against the opposition leader.

On Monday, Khan is scheduled to make another court appearance in Islamabad in a case of alleged “terrorism”.

At a rally in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province – Khan’s stronghold where assembly elections were controversially delayed by the government last week – the PTI chief attacked the government for failing to act when the country faced an economic crisis.

“I want to pose a question to Pakistan’s establishment. It is quite evident that you don’t want to let Imran Khan win. All the antics, including attack on my home, delaying elections – the objective of all this is just to make sure that Imran Khan does not come back to power,” he said.

“So I ask, sure don’t let me win. But do you have a programme to save the country from this disaster? Do you have a roadmap?”

Source: Al Jazeera