Imran Khan says the threat to his life is “real,” and that the current PM is “petrified” that he will return to power.
Death threats will remain a constant part of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s life until he can return to power and hold his would-be killers accountable, he told Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi on Saturday.
Khan told Rattansi that he has survived two attempts on his life in the last week – one which involved him being led into a “deathtrap” outside a court in Islamabad, and another in which agents of the state were to provoke police into opening fire on a crowd of Khan’s supporters before “coming after” him to finish the job.
“The threat is real because these people are sitting in power,” Khan said. “They are petrified that if I win the elections they will be in trouble, or held accountable.”
He blames Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, and Major General Faisal Naseer, a senior intelligence official, of plotting his assassination at a rally last November. Khan, who was removed from office in a no-confidence motion seven months earlier, was hit in the leg and hospitalized.
Sharif denies any involvement in the alleged murder attempt, and has accused Khan of spreading “false and cheap conspiracies.” He has also denied colluding with the US to have Khan removed from power.
Khan has since been charged with 143 criminal offenses, with the government most recently accusing him of terrorism after his supporters rioted outside the Islamabad courthouse last Saturday. He views these charges as politically-motivated, and aimed at preventing him from contesting this year’s general election.
While he has been barred from competing, he insists Pakistan’s election commission had no legal grounds to ban him.
“They are petrified that their elections, my party will sweep them,” Khan told Rattansi. “In all opinion polls, my party is poised to win a two-thirds majority in Pakistan, hence them wanting to get rid of me.”
“The threat is real until the elections,” he added. “They’re worried that if the elections take place and I come back into power, they will be held accountable.”
Khan’s PTI party has won 29 out of 37 by-elections since he was removed from power, and a Gallup poll put his approval rating at 61% earlier this month, compared to Sharif’s 32%. Provincial elections in the PTI strongholds of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were set to be held on April 30, but were this week pushed back until October, after Sharif’s government withheld election-related funding from the provinces.
Amid the apparent threat to his life, Khan said that he is “taking precautions,” and now gives speeches from behind bulletproof glass. Referring to the Pakistani authorities, he said that “those who were supposed to protect me are the ones I’m in the greatest danger from.”