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Imran Khan: Ex-Pakistan PM tells BBC crackdown on party is ‘untenable’

Pakistan’s ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan has had a tough few weeks. Thousands of his supporters are in jail. Dozens from the leadership of his party have left – and it it could even be banned. Mr Khan himself could potentially be called before a military court.

“You think it is a big crisis for me, I don’t,” he tells me.

We are sitting inside a portacabin in the courtyard of his home in Lahore, Zaman Park. It has been turned into a media room where Mr Khan now conducts his live broadcasts on his social media platforms and his interviews – trying to win the narrative argument that he hasn’t lost his chance at re-election.

That’s a difficult argument to make with his Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party so depleted. This week he lost more than two dozen colleagues, including Fawad Chaudrey, the PTI’s former senior vice president, and Sherin Mazari, previously Mr Khan’s human rights minister.

“Firstly, we will fill in all the positions of people who have left,” he says. “So have younger blood, newer people coming in. They’ll probably get arrested, too.”

I ask if a political party can be run that way.

“You can use these terror tactics for only a short time. The whole situation is untenable.”

But there’s no suggestion that the crackdown on his party is about to let up.

Behind the scenes his supporters acknowledge that the situation is tough, although some insist that this is when Mr Khan is at his best – relishing a fight-back.

He is looking increasingly isolated. Gone are the crowds of supporters who had been ever-present at the gates to his home on all our previous visits to Lahore. Now many those inside the security gates are the party’s lawyers.

Mr Khan is sounding more conciliatory. He is widely believed to have lost power because of a rift with the army, but now wants to talk to them. To suggest the military would have no role in Pakistan’s politics is a “fool’s paradise”, he says.

“I’m curious to know how do they think – and by them I mean the establishment – that by getting me out of the race, how will Pakistan benefit?”

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If talks with the military were difficult before, it’s hard to see why the army would want to speak to Mr Khan now when he is in a far weaker political position. He gave us no indication of what he would put on the table that wasn’t an option before, saying only that he was offering talks.

Mr Khan has faced dozens of charges, from corruption to sedition, since he was ousted last year. So his arrest on 10 May was not unexpected.

It followed the collapse of other talks – on that occasion with the government – about when to hold provincial and national elections. It looks as if a deal was possible.

But the talks broke down in what feels like a political miscalculation.

The former prime minister insists this is not the case.

He flatly denies any similarity between the arrest of members of his party leadership and the jailing of political opponents when he was in office.

“95% of the cases against the opposition were before our time, the cases were ongoing,” he says.

Stuck in what appears to be a political corner, what is next for Mr Khan? Either there is no grand plan, yet, or Mr Khan isn’t eager to share it.

“I’m just watching this whole scenario, wait and see. It’s possible that they’ll put me in jail.

“The idea that I would give in to this or I will accept this and keep quiet about it, it’s not going to happen.”

No further details are shared.

Source: BBC