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Pakistan: Former PM Imran Khan placed under travel ban

May 26, 2023

Ex-Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, his wife and many of his political aides are now banned from traveling abroad. But Khan, who himself imposed travel bans on opposition leaders while in power, stays defiant.

Imran Khan seen against two Pakistani flags
Khan, a former cricket star, enjoys great popularity among some sections of the Pakistani populationImage: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan's government has slapped a travel ban on former Prime Minister Imran Khan, officials said on Friday.

His wife, Bushra Bibi, and hundreds of his political aides have also been banned from traveling abroad, the officials added.

Khan, 70, was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament last year and faces a number of legal challenges. His arrest on May 9 triggered a wave of violent protests — in which at least nine died — that subsided only after he was released on bail on a Supreme Court order three days later.

More than 7,000 of his supporters have been arrested in a crackdown over the past couple of weeks.

Khan reacted to the travel ban with a defiant statement on Twitter, saying he welcomed the move to put him on the so-called Exit Control List (ECL), as he had no plans to take trips abroad and would anyway rather take holidays in Pakistan.

During the period it was in power from 2018 to 2022, Khan's government also imposed travel bans on several opposition leaders.

Accusations of army involvement

Members of Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party have blamed his arrest on the army, with which Khan has been at loggerheads for many months.

Many also say the coalition government under Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif stands to benefit if Khan is found guilty, as that would bar him from taking part in future elections, possibly forever.

A general election is due this year.

The protests and controversy over Khan come as Pakistan is in the grips of a long-running economic crisis that has caused food prices to soar.

The country of 231 million is also facing an ongoing threat of attacks by Islamist militants.

Criticism over trials in military courts

The government has said those who attacked military installations in protests after Khan's arrest will face summary trials in Pakistan's military courts, a move that has met with wide criticism from local and international rights groups.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan said on Friday that at least 33 people had so far been handed over to the military.

Several government ministers have said that a ban on Khan's party is also being considered, something that might contribute to further political chaos in the country.

tj/sri (dpa, Reuters)

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