Khan tells Al Jazeera an arrest warrant is a politically motivated attempt to “remove” him from upcoming elections.
Tensions have flared in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore after police arrived at the home of former Prime Minister Imran Khan to arrest him for failing to appear in court on Monday over corruption charges.
Police fired tear gas and water cannons on Tuesday as hundreds of supporters of Khan’s Pakistani party Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) gathered outside his residence. Police said they would arrest him by the end of Tuesday.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from his home, Khan said the arrest attempt was “totally illegal” and politically motivated.
“(The government) wants to remove me from the election because they are terrified of my party’s popularity,” he said.
Here’s the interview, shortened and edited for clarity.
Al Jazeera: Why not abide by the arrest warrant and let the rule of law take its course?
Khan: By law, I protected bail until March 18. So four days earlier the police arrived with an arrest warrant, which is totally illegal. So we wait for tomorrow morning when my lawyers will appear in court and challenge this warrant.
Al Jazeera: You released a video asking your supporters to come out and fight for their freedom. Aren’t you afraid that your message asking people to “fight” could lead to violence?
Khan: “Fighting for their freedom” means fighting for their fundamental rights, which means protesting peacefully in what you believe… The constitution and law of the land, what gives you the right to protest.
In France, people are protesting for pensions. In England people are protesting because of inflation and wage increases. So protesting is part of the democratic process. Never in my 26 years in politics have I ever asked my (supporters) to be violent.
Al Jazeera: The arrest warrant relates to allegations that you bought state gifts and hidden assets during your tenure as prime minister. How do you react to that?
Khan: This is an absolutely fabricated accusation. There are 80 cases against me and for the last few months there has been a new case against me every other day. There is a case of murder, there is a case of sedition, there is a case of blasphemy, a case of terrorism.
We asked to go to the Supreme Court and ask them to put all the cases together… and put them in a safe place because when I attended my two court hearings, there was no security. The government itself has said that my life is under threat, so we just ask that they merge all cases.
Al Jazeera: The government says the police will arrest you by the end of Tuesday. If that happens, what will it mean for your party and for the provincial and national elections?
Khan: I am mentally prepared. There is a huge (police) force outside (as if) Pakistan’s “biggest terrorist” has locked himself inside.
The reason they want to arrest me is not because they are concerned about the rule of law, but because the biggest criminals are now in government. They want to take me out of the election because they are terrified of my party’s popularity.
According to all the polls, we would sweep this upcoming election and that’s why they want me removed from the scene. The attempted murder (when Khan was shot in November) was therefore and now putting me in jail follows exactly the same script.
Al Jazeera: The real criminals are in parliament, you say, but you are the only Pakistani prime minister to have been removed from power by a vote of no confidence. Why do you think this is not the end of your political career?
Khan: Normally it means that when someone is removed from power, they must be ready for political wilderness for quite some time. In our past, governments have been removed from power, but always because of corruption cases or very poor economic performance combined with corruption cases…our government was not removed from office because of corruption or lack of economic performance.
It was removed by conspiracy, which is why there has been such public backlash.