Imran Khan says Pakistan gov’t, army ‘scared I will win election’

The former prime minister tells Al Jazeera the ruling coalition and the military want him ‘removed from the electoral field in an election year’.

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan has claimed Pakistan’s ruling coalition and the military are cracking down on him and his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to stop him from contesting the upcoming general election.

Speaking from his Zaman Park residence in the eastern city of Lahore late on Wednesday, Khan told Al Jazeera that more than 100 cases have been filed against him to keep him away from the electoral process.

“All the political parties and the establishment want me removed from the electoral field in an election year,” he said, adding that police surrounded his house on Wednesday and blocked access to main roads.

There was heavy police deployment outside Khan’s residence house on Wednesday evening, with the police claiming he was sheltering dozens of people allegedly involved in violent protests against his recent arrest.

The PTI chief was arrested by the paramilitary forces during an appearance before the Islamabad High Court on May 9.

The dramatic arrest led to widespread protests across the country which turned violent as military installations and residences were attacked. At least 10 people were killed in the protests and nearly 5,000 people arrested, including top PTI leaders.

On Tuesday, the country’s civilian and military leaders said the people who attacked military installations will be tried under army laws, a move condemned by rights groups.

‘People were inserted to create arson’

Government officials have blamed Khan’s supporters of arson and violence, allegations Khan denies.

“Any independent investigation will show that any people who came out for me were peaceful protesters,” he said, adding “some people were inserted” to create arson and give the authorities a reason for the “crackdown” on his party.

Shazia Marri, federal minister for poverty, alleviation and social safety, told Al Jazeera that Khan was “inciting” his supporters to violence through his video messages.

“Law was being taken into their hands,” Marri said, referring to Khan’s supporters. “They were attacking buildings, they were burning down ambulances.”

“It was a situation where the administration had to take some necessary measures just to ensure that peace is sort of back on the streets,” she said.

Also on Wednesday, Amir Mir, an official in the Punjab provincial government, said Khan had 24 hours to hand over 40 suspects allegedly hiding at his home or face a police raid.

Mir told a news conference that nearly 3,400 suspects were arrested in Punjab and more raids were planned.

Khan denied he was providing refuge to any “terrorists” and alleged the arson was committed “deliberately by people who were planted for that purpose”.

“I have invited everyone to come and look for these terrorists, because it is just a pretext for them [authorities] to conduct a raid and pick me up,” he told Al Jazeera.

‘Whatever the army chief decides, goes’

The 70-year-old former cricketer also claimed that 7,500 of his supporters have been jailed since last week.

“This was deliberate as the [favourable] rating of my political party is at 70 percent and the government is running away from elections,” he said.

Pakistan is due to hold a general election by October, prior to which the current regime will be dissolved and a caretaker government set up in order to conduct the polls as has been the convention in the South Asian country.

“Neither the military establishment nor the 13-party political alliance brought in by the former army chief wants elections because they are scared I will win,” Khan said. He also accused a former army chief of “feeding lines to the United States” about him.

In recent weeks, Khan has openly blamed the former and current military chiefs for trying to stop him from running for the prime minister’s office.

He called the military a non-democratic institution. “Whatever the army chief decides, goes,” he said as he lauded the judiciary for being “the only thing holding the democracy together” in Pakistan.

Two days after his arrest last week, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled his arrest illegal and ordered his immediate release.

The government, however, denounced the ruling and said it was determined to find other legal avenues to rearrest the opposition leader.

Source: Al Jazeera