Pakistan is considering barring former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party from assaulting the state, the defense minister said on Wednesday, a move that is sure to infuriate his fans and aggravate his feud with the military establishment.
The former cricketer is embroiled in the latest vital chapter of a decades-long conflict between civilian lawmakers and Pakistan’s powerful military, which has either ruled directly or overseen administrations throughout the country’s history.
The confrontation has sparked widespread rallies by Khan’s followers, raising new concerns about the nuclear-armed country’s stability as it grapples with its worst economic crisis in decades.
Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told reporters that Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party had targeted the “very basis of the state,” which could not be permitted.
“It is under consideration to ban PTI,” he added, adding that a government decision to outlaw the party would require final approval from parliament.
The minister mentioned Khan supporters who targeted military installations, including army headquarters and government offices, earlier this month.
Any such move, according to PTI party counsel Ali Zafar, will be opposed in court. He stated that an entire party cannot be held responsible for the actions of individuals.
Khan was elected Prime Minister with the tacit assistance of the military in 2018, but both sides denied it at the time. The military perceived Khan’s conservative, nationalist program as more likely to preserve its interests.
However, Khan then lost out with the generals after being accused of interfering in critical security promotions, and he was deposed as prime minister after losing a confidence vote in 2022.
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Khan, 70, has subsequently rallied supporters around the country in support of a hasty general election. However, Shahbaz Sharif, the prime minister who succeeded him, has rejected the urge for an election before the end of the year.
Khan is also facing corruption charges, which he has denounced as fabricated in an attempt to remove him from politics.
Khan was arrested on May 9 in connection with the charges, provoking protests and attacks on military sites by his followers. He was eventually released on bond.
On Tuesday, anti-corruption agents questioned him for almost three hours.