Wednesday, November 14, 2007

National Hero Imran Khan Arrested In Pakistani Clampdown, To Be Charged With Terrorism

Imran Khan, the only Pakistani politician who has ever won a World Cup or founded a hospital for cancer patients, has been arrested. He had been on the run since November 3, when Pakistan's President, General Pervez Musharraf, declared a state of emergency and cracked down on all his domestic opponents except the terrorists whose actions supposedly justified the declaration.

As you probably know, martial law is in effect in Pakistan, although it's being called by a different name. The constitution has been suspended and independent news media have been severely curtailed. Police have been targeting opposition politicians and their supporters, human rights advocates, lawyers and judges; meanwhile, the struggle against the militants in the mountains has apparently been suspended.

Khan, the former captain of the national cricket team, was arrested at an anti-government rally at Punjab University in Lahore. He was betrayed by radical Islamist students, who seized him and turned him over to the police, according to witnesses at the scene.

As the Scotsman reports, Imran Khan
was initially cheered by about 200 student supporters when he got out of a car on a university campus in the eastern city of Lahore.

But others representing the hard-line Jamaat-e-Islami party grabbed him and hustled him into a nearby building.

The radical students placed Mr Khan in a van and took him to a campus gate, where he was handed over to police.

Jamaat-e-Islami is also opposed to President Pervez Musharraf's emergency rule...
Imran Khan has been trying to spark a student uprising against the military government. One might think the Islamists who oppose Musharraf would support any serious opponent of the government. But things are never so simple -- especially in Pakistan.

Some observers of the current situation in Pakistan have seen signs of collusion between the radical militarist government of General Pervez Musharraf and the radical militants in the mountains, especially the radical cleric Maulana Fazlulla, who has been urging his followers to attack the army and police for quite some time now, but who does not appear to have been targeted in the emergency.

This view was bolstered shortly before the emergency was declared, when the government mounted what appeared to be a sham attack against the cleric; troops surrounded his compound and were reportedly firing shells into the area, but not targeting the compound itself. Maulana Fazlulla, who was not injured in the attack, was reported to be elsewhere at the time.

From this perspective, the Musharraf government appears to be orchestrating an elaborate charade, with Maulana Fazlulla as the ever-elusive villain, Benazir Bhutto as the "power-sharing" leader of the enabling opposition, and the real opposition figures either in exile (like Nawaz Sharif) or under house arrest (if not in prison).

Imran Khan not only sees this; he even talks about it. He's a proven leader and an independent politician; a man of honor and dignity; an utter nightmare for the Musharraf government and a danger to the grand charade.

The arrest does not appear to have been a surprise.
Imran Khan told AFP from police custody he was trying to start a student movement against emergency rule when he was arrested on Wednesday after more than a week in hiding.

"I came to the university to lead a rally of students against the dictator Musharraf and his illegal actions," Khan said, referring to President Pervez Musharraf.

"I would have presented myself for arrest in full public view but my goal was to set in motion a student movement."

"The majority of the students were with me there but a group of them from Islami-Jamiat-Tuliba (the student wing of the hardline Jamaat-e-Islami party) collaborated with the administration and police," Khan said.

"They took me into the office and then forced me out into a van. They did not allow me to be arrested publicly."
But the Pakistani police appear to have a surprise of their own:
LAHORE: Pakistani police said that cricket legend Imran Khan is to be charged under anti-terrorism legislation following his arrest on Wednesday.

"He will be charged under the anti-terrorism act," Lahore police chief Malik Mohammad Iqbal told reporters.

"Through his speeches he has been inciting people to pick up arms, he has been calling for civil disobedience, he was spreading hatred," Iqbal said.
Australia's The Age has a few more details:
Khan, who has founded a small but vocal opposition party, called for Musharraf to be hanged for treason after the military ruler imposed emergency rule on November 3.

He was being held in custody under a 90-day detention order, and police sources said he was being moved to prison shortly ahead of being formally charged.