The political clash between former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his successor, Shehbaz Sharif, is taking a worrying turn for democracy and freedoms in Pakistan.
The former leader, ousted from power in April after the vote of a motion of censure, was personally summoned by Pakistan’s electoral commission on August 23. He will have to answer charges of violations of the rules of financing of public life. The commission found on August 2 that his party, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (Pakistan Justice Movement, PTI) was funded by foreign funds, including the United States, Australia and United Arab Emirates.
This is an old case, pending since 2014. “The PTI received donations from thirty-four foreign nationals and 351 companies located abroad. The collection of donations and contributions from foreign nationals and companies is prohibited and is a violation of Pakistani laws”says the electoral policeman.
In his defence, Mr. Khan assures us that it was money from the diaspora that he received, quite legally, in 2012, and not that of foreign nationals. The former cricketer star rose to power in 2018 on a promise to break the grip of the decades-ruling Bhutto and Sharif dynasties in Pakistan and end the endemic corruption that has plagued political life. He had turned to the Pakistanis living abroad, who are favorable to him.
Imran Khan is risking his political future. His party could be banned, and he could be banned from holding public office. The electoral watchdog also agreed to consider, on August 16, a request for the former prime minister to be “disqualified” from public office, filed by a group of MPs associated with the Pakistan Democratic Movement, for failing to mention certain information in their declaration of assets.
Closure of a television channel
This legal confrontation comes in the midst of a war of legitimacy between the former and the new prime minister, and while Pakistan is plunged into a major economic crisis. Since leaving power, Imran Khan has claimed to be the victim of a conspiracy encouraged by the United States and has mobilized public opinion at giant meetings. In a deeply divided country, his ousting has greatly boosted his popularity and the coalition government of Shehbaz Sharif fears he will win the next general elections, scheduled for October 2023. Imran Khan’s party has just won a crucial vote in the Punjab, the most populous region of the country, and calls for early legislative elections.
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