Police file terrorism charges against Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan

Former PM of Pakistan Imran Khan. Credit: AP

Terrorism charges have been filed against former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, authorities have confirmed.

Police levelled charges at the ousted leader as political tension continues to escalate across the country, with Khan holding mass rallies in a bid to return to office.

The terrorism charges come after a speech Khan gave in Islamabad where he vowed to sue police officers and a female judge while alleging a close aide had been tortured after his arrest.

Khan himself appeared to still be free and had not immediately addressed the police charge sheet being lodged against him.

His political party, Tehreek-e-Insaf, now in opposition - published online videos showing supporters surrounding his home to potentially stop police from reaching it.

The party has warned it will hold nationwide rallies if Khan is arrested.

Under Pakistan’s legal system, police file what is known as a first information report about charges against an accused person to a magistrate judge, who allows the investigation to move forward. Typically, police then arrest and question the accused.

Supporters of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan's party gather outside his residence in Islamabad. Credit: AP

The report against Khan includes testimony from Magistrate Judge Ali Javed, who described being at the Islamabad rally and hearing Khan criticise the inspector-general of Pakistan's police and another judge.

Khan reportedly went on to say: "You also get ready for it, we will also take action against you. All of you must be ashamed.”

The former cricket star could face several years in prison from the new charges.

They accuse him of threatening police officers and the judge. However, he's not been detained on other lesser charges levied against him in his recent campaigning against the government.

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The Pakistani judiciary also has a history of politicisation and taking sides in power struggles between the military, the civilian government and opposition politicians, according to the Washington-based advocacy group Freedom House.

Mr Khan came to power in 2018, promising to break the pattern of family rule in Pakistan. His opponents contend he was elected with help from the powerful military, which has ruled the country for half of its 75-year history.

The opposition had accused him of economic mismanagement as inflation soars and the Pakistani rupee plummets in value.

Khan's party Tehreek-e-Insaf said hundreds of flag-waving and cheering crowds came out to support the prime minister following the charge.. Credit: Twitter/@InsafPK

The parliament's no-confidence vote in April that ousted Khan began months of political turmoil and a constitutional crisis that required the Supreme Court to step in. Meanwhile, it appeared the military similarly had cooled to Khan.

Khan alleged without providing evidence that the Pakistani military took part in a US plot to oust him. Washington, the Pakistani military and the government of Khan’s successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, have all denied that.

Meanwhile, Khan has been carrying out a series of mass rallies trying to pressure Sharif's government.

Internet-access advocacy group NetBlocks said internet services in the country blocked access to YouTube after Khan broadcast a live speech on the platform despite a ban issued by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority.

Police arrested Khan's political aide, Shahbaz Gill, earlier this month after he appeared on the private television channel ARY TV and urged soldiers and officers to refuse to obey “illegal orders” from the military leadership.

Gill was charged with treason, which under Pakistani law carries the death penalty. ARY also remains off-air in Pakistan following that broadcast.

Khan has alleged police abused Gill while in custody. Police say Gill suffers from asthma and has not been abused while detained.