US says it backs ‘democratic’ order in Pakistan after Imran booked on terror charges


ISLAMABAD: The United States said on Thursday that it backed democratic principles in Pakistan after former prime minister Imran Khan, an outspoken critic of Washington, was slapped with terrorism charges.

“We support the peaceful upholding of democratic, constitutional and legal principles,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.

“The United States values our longstanding cooperation with Pakistan and has always viewed a prosperous and democratic Pakistan as critical to US interests,” he said.

He declined to weigh in more specifically on charges against the PTI chief, who was ousted in a parliamentary vote in April but hopes to stage a comeback in elections.

Imran has staged rallies to rail against his successor, Shehbaz Sharif, and has alleged a conspiracy against him orchestrated by the United States, allegations repeatedly dismissed in Washington as baseless.

The former PM was granted interim bail after being slapped with charges by an anti-terror court over comments against a woman judge over the detention of PTI leader Shahbaz Gill.

Imran’s lawyer and political aide Babar Awan told Reuters bail had been granted until September 1, after which they will apply for another extension. The former premier maintained after the hearing he had said nothing wrong in the speech last week.

Police filed charges on Saturday against Imran Khan over what they said was a threat when he spoke about police torture of Gill, who faces sedition charges for inciting mutiny in the military.

Political tensions in the country remain high as Imran rallies support for elections that are not due until October next year. The former premier, who has attracted large crowds in gatherings across the country since being ousted in April, said his opponents were spooked by his popularity.

In his speech last week, Imran said he “would not spare” the Islamabad police chief and a female judge who remanded his aide to custody, adding he would take legal action against them.

Khan’s supporters and former ministers in his government have threatened mass protests if he is arrested. One former minister has said his supporters would “take over” Islamabad.

Speaking after the extension of his bail, Imran – surrounded by his aides and supporters – told reporters outside the court he had said nothing wrong.

“I say I will take legal action, and they make a terrorism case on me because of that, just think what mockery has been made of this internationally,” he