Imran Khan’s ‘Conviction’ Draws Reaction in the US, Canada

By A Correspondent
Supporters of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Terik e Insaf raising slogans at a protest rally in New York City’s Times Square on August 6. (Photo via video stream)
The one-sided verdict by a Pakistani judge to convict Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan has evoked reaction from quarters considered aligned with the American establishment and the media. Khan was arrested from his Lahore residence minutes after Additional District and Sessions Judge Humayun Dilawar in Islamabad Saturday, August 5. Judge Dilawar left the country for London hours after delivering his controversial verdict which has been widely rejected by Pakistan’s legal fraternity, including the president of Supreme Court Bar Association.

Many in Pakistan fear the verdict, widely believed to have the tacit backing of Pakistan’s powerful military and its allies in government, will push it further into chaos. Economists and international financial institutions have warned that Pakistan’s almost bankrupt economy can only be revived if political stability is ushered in by holding free and fair elections in the country, which are due this fall under the country’s constitution.

Khan is being held in Attock prison in the garrison town of Attock city, which is also home to Pakistan Aeronautical Complex in adjoining Kamra town. Several journalists and leaders of Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf Party have claimed that Khan is being treated as an ordinary prisoner with limited facilities, way below his entitlement as being a former prime minister and the main opposition leader. Khan’s lawyers have accused authorities of denying them access to their client. The development has raised several eyebrows in Western capitals, including Washington.

“The arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan is one more unnecessary step toward instability and crisis in Pakistan. The people of Pakistan will not benefit from the continuing turmoil. Instead, China, ISIS-K and other terrorists will take advantage of the unrest to their advantage and the disadvantage of Pakistan’s sovereignty, government and economy,” Tweeted John Bolton, a former national Security Advisor and the US Ambassador to the United Nations.

There were reports of protests against Khan’s conviction from several cities of Pakistan and across the world, including North America. Khan’s supporters took to streets in Washington DC, New York, Houston, and a few other cities in the US on Sunday (August 6).

“We are not coming out to favor Imran Khan, it is our national duty to raise our voice. He is doing us a favor by taking so much pain for our rights,” said a tearful senior citizen at a protest in New York’s Times Square which was also addressed by Dr Shahbaz Gill, a former aide to Khan.

“Forced submissions, reckless raids, unwarranted arrests and unjustifiable court decisions are not norms of #CivilSociety and #Democracy. You cannot pick and choose to arrest or disqualify people on your liking or disliking . #ImranKhan is disqualified on a case which fits more accurately on many other free and seeking offices. We will raise voice against injustice at every level,” announced Dr Asif Mahmood, a noted Pakistan activist and a senior Democratic Party leader who lost US Congressional election by a narrow margin in 2022.

In Canada, several hundred protestors took to streets in a few Canadian cities, including Mississauga.

Khan’s disqualification news was splashed by the international media very prominently. Almost alll major dailies in the US gave Khan prominent coverage.

“The verdict is a climactic turn in a political showdown between Mr. Khan and Pakistan’s powerful military that has embroiled the country for over a year. It comes on the heels of a monthslong intimidation campaign by the military aimed at hollowing out Mr. Khan’s political party and stifling the remarkable political comeback he has made since being ousted from office last year in a vote of no confidence,” wrote New York Times inn a separate report.

“Courts Alone Won’t be Able to Knock Out Imran Khan,” read the title of an analysis published by Washington Post on Sunday. “Past Pakistani leaders, including Khan’s predecessor Nawaz Sharif, have been disqualified on equally flimsy grounds. In many ways, though, Khan’s hold over his followers is unique — closer to that wielded by a figure such as former US President Donald Trump, himself caught up in an expanding legal morass. Neither man’s opponents should celebrate too soon,” wrote Mihir Sharma in the WP/Bloomberg analysis. The author draws parallels between Khan and Trump, arguing: “It’s equally true that neither Khan nor Trump can credibly complain about their treatment. Khan, who originally rose to power thanks to the military’s backing and who campaigned for Sharif’s disqualification as a candidate, cannot act surprised if the establishment has now withdrawn its protection.”

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