(Update 1: changes lede, updates throughout with protests, new court order)
By Amjad Ali
Islamabad, 22 ago (EFE).- Hundreds of supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan on Monday thronged to the streets of Islamabad over the possibility of the Pakistani leader being arrested on terror charges, as they claimed that the trial against Khan was an attempt to silence him.
Activists of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party and his guards have been keeping a vigil outside his house since Sunday night, vowing to prevent his arrest, although Khan was granted a three-day pre-arrest bail by the Islamabad High Court earlier on Monday.
One of the supporters, Atif Hussain, had travelled from the city of Mardan – situated 140 kilometers away from the capital – after getting to know of the case against Khan.
“They have registered a terror case but in reality, the real terrorists are those who want to suppress the voice of millions of people. We will be here until Khan asks us to leave. I will not hesitate to sacrifice my life for him,” the 24-year-old told EFE, staying put outside the leader’s residence round the clock.
Another PTI activist, Bisma Khan, told EFE that she had seen the crowd at the spot on Sunday and decided to do her part at a time when “Imran Khan is taking the country towards real freedom.”
Khan was granted temporary relief by the High Court on Monday, a day after the government registered a case against him under the Anti-Terrorism Act, following a televised speech in which he threatened to register a case against police officials for “torturing” party leader Shahbaz Gill in custody.
“The Islamabad High Court has awarded a three-day protective bail to Imran Khan. We said in the court that he is ready to surrender himself before the law,” Khan’s lawyer Faisal Chaudhry told EFE.
“During these three days he will appear at the Anti-terrorism Court and face the charges against him,” he added.
Khan had also threatened Judge Zeba Chaudhry for approving the police’s request for a second physical remand despite allegedly knowing that Gill was subjected to “torture” during the first remand.
In this regard, the Islamabad High Court on Monday also initiated contempt proceedings against the leader, forming a three-judge bench which would begin proceedings on Tuesday.
Khan was served the contempt notice when he was addressing a seminar on independent judiciary and justice system in the capital.
“Strange!!! At the time Imran Khan is addressing a seminar on independent judiciary and justice system. Talking about the supremacy of the judiciary, at the same time he was given a court notice,” PTI leader Faisal Vawda tweeted.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has issued a notification banning the live telecast of Khan’s speeches.
PEMRA said the former prime minister has been continuously “leveling baseless allegations and spreading hate speech through his provocative statements against state institutions and officers which is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order.”
The PTI termed the order a “fascist” one and said it will challenge the ban in court.
Addressing a huge public rally in Rawalpindi on Sunday, Khan leveled a series of allegations against the “neutrals,” referring to the military establishment.
Khan claimed police officials told him that they received orders from the “top,” or the military, to inflict torture on Gill.
The former prime minister also warned the army saying “do whatever you want to do, I will gather my whole nation.”