UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urges the Pakistan government to “respect due process” in the case against former Prime Minister Imran Khan and calls on all parties to avoid violence, his spokesperson Farhan Haq said on Monday.
Haq said: “The Secretary General urges the authorities to respect due process and the rule of law in the proceedings brought against the former prime minister”.
Guterres has “taken note of the ongoing protests that have erupted on the rest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad, and he calls for all parties to refrain from violence”, Haq said.
“He stresses the need to respect the right to peaceful assembly,” the spokesperson added.
Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party, was arrested in Lahore on Saturday after a court found him guilty of selling state gifts illegally and sentenced him to three years in prison.
Khan’s conviction bars him from contesting the upcoming National Assembly election due within months. He and his party have called for peaceful protests but the response has been feeble and the expected mass demonstrations have not materialised so far unlike in May when he was arrested on corruption charges.
At that time, massive protests erupted in several places in Pakistan with death and injuries reported from clashes between his supporters and security forces. He was released soon after on the orders of the Supreme Court only to be rearrested after his conviction in a different case.
The multi-millionaire former cricket star was transferred to a prison in Attock, 80 kilometres from the capital Islamabad, where his party says he is treated as a common “C-Class” prisoner with few amenities in a cramped cell.
Khan was Prime Minister from 2018 to 2022 when he was ousted by a non-confidence motion and was succeeded by Shehbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, who heads the Pakistan Democracy Movement coalition.
Pakistan Assembly’s term ends next Saturday but there is uncertainty about when the nation would go to the polls. According to media reports, Sharif may dissolve the National Assembly before Saturday and hand over power to a caretaker government. That would allow a 90-interval for the elections instead of the 60 days if the Assembly ran its course till the five-year term’s end.
But Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, according to TV, has raised the possibility of even more delays because a new census would be taken and constituencies written on that basis.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed at @arulouis)