Pakistan minister sparks backlash demanding Imran Khan’s ‘elimination’

Pakistan’s interior minister Rana Sanaullah Khan has drawn backlash after making startling remarks against his political rival and ousted prime minister Imran Khan.

In an interview with a private channel, Mr Sanaullah Khan, who occupies the second most important constitutional post after the prime minister, said “either he [Imran Khan] will be eliminated from the political arena or us”.

“He has brought the nation’s politics to a point where only one of us can exist,” said Mr Sanaullah Khan.

“When we feel our existence is being threatened, we will go to a point where we will not bother whether a move is democratic or not.”

The senior leader, belonging to the country’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PMLN), termed the cricketer-turned-politician “incurable” and blamed him for leading the country towards an anarchy-like situation, reported the Dawn newspaper.

“He accuses us of plotting to kill him, and if he thinks we want to kill him, obviously he wants to kill us as well,” he said.

The comments come days after a Pakistani court shielded Mr Khan from arrest amid a roiling political crisis that has pitted the 70-year-old politician against the current government and spilled into street protests.

Ousted through a no-confidence vote in parliament last April, Mr Khan faces more than 100 legal cases against him from his time in office.

Since November, Mr Khan has avoided appearances before courts in Islamabad in at least three cases, including a graft charge, after he was wounded in a gun attack at a protest rally in the eastern Punjab province late last year.

Mr Khan claims his life is in danger, which is why he is seeking bail to avoid appearances before judges in multiple cases.

Responding sharply to the comments from the interior minister, Mr Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader and former federal information minister Fawad Chaudhry said: “This is a direct life threat to Imran Khan from the PMLN coalition government.”

“Is Sanaullah running a gang or government? The Supreme Court had rightly declared PMLN a Sicilian mafia and his statement is evidence of it,” he said.

“If anyone has any doubts about Rana Sanaullah’s murderous intent towards Imran Khan. This is a direct threat given by the cabal of crooks’ interior minister. The judiciary should take note,” PTI senior leader and former minister Shireen Mazari.

“A fight to the death? This is not an ordinary person talking but Pakistan’s interior minister. In any other country, he would have been made to resign,” party leader Taimur Jhagra was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera.

“No one from the government has contradicted [the remarks]. No one has apologised. This exposes their real political values, and in a sad way, is also an honest admission of how afraid they are of Imran Khan.”

Additional reporting by agencies