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Pakistani security forces have surrounded Khan's compound and threaten to storm it


All right. There's a standoff happening right now in Pakistan. Security forces have surrounded the home of the former prime minister, Imran Khan.


Yeah. They're threatening to storm it, accusing Khan of sheltering a few dozen men they call terrorists for their roles in recent protests. This is the latest in a political crisis that has engulfed Pakistan for over a year.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Diaa Hadid is in Islamabad. She's been following all this. Bring us up to speed. What's happening right now?

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: Well, A, the countdown is on. A senior government official warns they'll storm Khan's home after a deadline ends this afternoon. And Khan is telling media to come and film it. The fear is this could ignite more violence in Pakistan, like what happened last week when paramilitary forces briefly detained Khan. That triggered unprecedented attacks by protesters on army installations. Now, officials claim Khan is sheltering some of those protesters. Last night, as those forces began surrounding Khan's home, I spoke to him on Zoom. And he says he believes there's a plan to kill him, but that he's staying put.

IMRAN KHAN: This is where I will live and die. You know, I will be here until my last breath. There's no question of me leaving my country.

MARTÍNEZ: Wow, sounds very, very tense. Let's step back a bit for a second, Diaa. What triggered all this?

HADID: Right. Well, Khan was the prime minister until April last year when the military signaled they no longer supported his rule. And then he lost a no confidence vote in parliament. The military here is the most powerful institution in the country. They were widely seen as propelling Khan to power until they had a falling out. But Khan's been fighting back, staging protests, court challenges, communicating over social media. He wants early elections. And if they were held, he'd probably win. But Khan's facing a swath of corruption cases. And if he's found guilty, he'll likely be disqualified from running. And Khan says that's the point of this whole crisis. He says Pakistan's army chief and the ruling coalition have decided he can't come back as prime minister.

KHAN: He, along with these 12 party coalition, have made up their mind that whatever happens, Imran Khan can't win the elections.

MARTÍNEZ: So it sounds like a political fight. But you've been reporting that there have been bigger ramifications.

HADID: Yeah, this has caused the economy to unravel. Inflation is soaring. Millions are going hungry. This is a nuclear-armed country with 240 million people. It has a problem with extremism, and now this political crisis. And it even intensified again this week with a crackdown against Khan's supporters and advisers. Some of them are being released from detention only to step out of courthouses and be taken again. And the army says it's going to use secret military trials to prosecute some of them. So this is Khan again.

KHAN: I mean, it's a total banana republic right now. Are we headed for out and out martial law?

MARTÍNEZ: All right, so what's the government saying?

HADID: For now, the government supports this crackdown. They say Khan's dangerous. The army, though, hasn't spoken to journalists yet. But one analyst tells me the military has turned on nearly every Pakistani prime minister once they don't do their bidding. That analyst's name is Mosharraf Zaidi. And he says this crisis is squarely the army's fault.

MOSHARRAF ZAIDI: This is something that the military is going to have to seriously consider, what it's doing to any potential the country has left.

HADID: But few people are hopeful this standoff between the army and Khan will end any time soon.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR's Diaa Hadid in Islamabad. Thanks.

HADID: You're welcome, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Diaa Hadid chiefly covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Islamabad. There, Hadid and her team were awarded a Murrow in 2019 for hard news for their story on why abortion rates in Pakistan are among the highest in the world.
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