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Assassination Plot Claim Prompts Pakistan to Boost Security for Ex-PM Khan

FILE - Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a news conference in Islamabad, April 23, 2022.
FILE - Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a news conference in Islamabad, April 23, 2022.

Pakistan has ordered enhanced personal security for former prime minister Imran Khan, a day after he repeated his claim at a massive rally that there was a plot to assassinate him.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s office said Monday he had directed federal and provincial authorities to provide “foolproof security” to his predecessor during his appearances at public rallies and gatherings.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has organized massive anti-government rallies across the country since early last month when the cricketer-turned-politician was ousted in an opposition-led parliamentary no-confidence vote and replaced by Sharif.

“A plot is being hatched against me in Pakistan and abroad. They are plotting to kill Imran Khan,” the former prime minister told a rally in the central city, Faisalabad, on Sunday night.

“I have recorded a video message and kept it in a safe place. If something happens to me, God forbid, this video will be made public, where I have exposed everyone involved in the plot,” Khan said without elaborating.

The deposed prime minister has been demanding new elections, accusing the United States of conspiring with his political opponents to bring down his nearly four-year-old government.

Khan levelled the allegations while he was in office, citing a ciphered message from the then-Pakistani ambassador in Washington, Asad Majid Khan. The allegations form a central part of speeches Khan has made at his recent public rallies.

The deposed leader maintains he was punished for pursuing an independent foreign policy and ignoring Washington’s advice against visiting Russia. Khan met President Vladimir Putin on February 24, when Russian troops invaded Ukraine.

Washington has persistently rejected the charges as not true and reiterated its stance last week.

“We are not going to let propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation – lies – get in the way of any bilateral relationship we have, including with the bilateral relationship we have with Pakistan, one we value,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told a regular news conference last week.

Sharif and his nascent government also vehemently deny Khan’s foreign conspiracy charges as politically motivated.

Khan has vowed to gather hundreds of thousands of people in the national capital, Islamabad, later this month for a sit-in protest until fresh elections are announced.

The political uncertainty has led stocks to tumble. The Pakistani rupee is at a record low and foreign exchange reserves have rapidly depleted, adding pressure on the beleaguered Sharif government, a coalition of political parties.