Former Pakistan PM Khan to be indicted on contempt charge

·2-min read

Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan will be formally indicted on a contempt of court charge later this month after judges on Thursday rejected his explanation and "regrets" for comments he made about a magistrate, state media reported.

The ruling is the latest twist in months of political wrangling that started even before he was ousted in April by a vote of no confidence in the national assembly.

State media reported the Islamabad High Court ruled Khan would be indicted on September 22 for criticising the magistrate responsible for keeping a party leader in police custody, after also claiming the official had been tortured.

"Imran Khan's response was not satisfactory," state media quoted the chief justice of the court as saying.

The ruling does not necessarily mean Khan will face trial as his lawyers will likely appeal against the decision -- a frequent occurrence in the Pakistan legal system.

Earlier Khan had expressed regret for his comments, but stopped short of a full apology.

"The respondent takes this opportunity to express his deep regrets over his unintentional utterances during the course of his speech," he said in formal reply to the court -- a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

"The respondent beseeches that the said Islamic principles of... forgiveness would also be followed in this case," it said.

Khan is also due in the separate Anti-Terrorism Court on Friday when his bail is due to expire in a different case regarding the same comments he made about the judge.

Despite his ousting, Khan retains widespread support, staging mass rallies railing against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's government and scoring successes in recent provincial assembly by-elections.

Pakistan has a history of those in power using the police and courts to stifle political opponents, and Sharif also has several pending cases against him from his time in opposition.

The political turmoil comes as Pakistan deals with devastating floods caused by record monsoon rains that have left a third of the country under water and affected more than 33 million people.

jaf/fox/axn