Mehdi Hasan: I First Interviewed Imran Khan Back in 2010. But Never Before Have I Interviewed Him Like This.

Mehdi Hasan at Zeteo: I first interviewed Imran Khan back in 2010, in print, for the New Statesman. In the 14 years since, I have spoken to him on multiple occasions, including televised interviews for Al Jazeera English and MSNBC.

But never before have I interviewed him like this.

Khan – the legendary cricket player who went from leading Pakistan to World Cup victory to leading his nation as Pakistan’s 22nd prime minister – is now sitting in a prison cell. Having been elected to high office in 2018, he was ousted four years later in a controversial no-confidence vote in parliament, after losing the support of his country’s all-powerful military. Khan, at the time, called it a U.S.-backed conspiracy against him (which the Biden administration consistently denies). In 2023, the Intercept obtained a classified Pakistani government document that suggested the U.S. State Department encouraged the Pakistani government to remove Khan from office over his neutrality on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Last year, the former premier was violently arrested by the Pakistani authorities, sparking protests on his behalf and brutal police crackdowns across the country.

Khan is now being kept in solitary confinement, even after being granted an appeal of his corruption conviction, as he serves out sentences for sharing state secrets and, bizarrely, violating marriage laws. Almost two years since surviving an assassination attempt, Khan continues to worry for his own safety and, in this interview with me below, accuses Pakistani authorities of subjecting him to “psychological tactics” designed to break his spirit. The Pakistani government has defended the arrest and prosecution of the former prime minister, arguing that he has been found guilty of illegal practices and claiming that his arrest had nothing to do with February’s elections, despite Khan’s overwhelming national popularity as Pakistan’s leading opposition figure.

In my exclusive interview with him below, Khan tells me the current Pakistani government, led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, “lacks legitimacy.” He also has some, ahem, choice words for former Pakistani army chief of staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

I want to be clear: This was no ordinary, normal interview. Due to Khan’s imprisonment, I could only send a list of written questions for him to answer. I could not speak to him directly. And I was unable to ask any follow-up questions. Nevertheless, we believe that this exclusive interview for Zeteo with the former prime minister of Pakistan is of significant importance.

It is, therefore, also the first piece of content since our formal launch last month that we have decided to place behind a paywall, available solely for our paid subscribers. If you have a free subscription, please do consider upgrading it today and offering your financial support for Zeteo’s journalism, especially as we begin increasing the number of paywalls around our exclusive online content.

Mehdi: What is life behind bars like? Have you been subjected to mistreatment? Torture?

Imran Khan: I find myself confined in what is referred to as a death cell – a small, isolated space typically reserved for terrorists. The authorities are determined to cast me in this light. In solitary confinement, I am denied even the basic rights of a prisoner. They employ psychological tactics to break my spirit, but my heart, fortified by faith in Allah, remains strong. I keep myself occupied and mentally sharp through exercise and reading. Here, it’s all about preparing and conditioning oneself for whatever may come next. Allah’s strength keeps me resilient, content, and focused.

Who do you blame for your current imprisonment? Your Pakistani political rivals, the Pakistani military, the United States? Or all of the above?

Over these past two years, I’ve had ample time to reflect, analyzing every move and its consequences. After 11 months in prison, I am certain that this ordeal was orchestrated solely by General Bajwa. I hold no one else responsible. He meticulously planned and executed this scheme, presenting himself as a deceitful figure, creating lies and false narratives to cause both national and international chaos – all to secure his extension. He utterly failed to grasp the detrimental impact of his actions on democracy and Pakistan.

Do you still believe the Biden administration was involved in a coup to remove you from office? …

More here.

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