ISLAMABAD - Former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan has accused the military and its intelligence branch, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), of openly attempting to crush his political party and throw him in jail to stop him from winning the upcoming elections.
Speaking in an interview on Saturday evening at his heavily fortified home in Lahore, Khan cited the government and military's push to arrest his supporters, looking to "destroy" his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party before a vote that must be held by mid-October.
"It is completely the establishment," the former cricket hero said when asked who was behind the crackdown. "Establishment obviously means the military establishment, because they are really now openly - I mean, it's not even hidden now - they're just out in the open."
Pakistan's authorities have announced that they want to hold accountable all the figures and politicians who were complicit in the attacks on military buildings following Khan's brief time in detention in May over corruption charges that led to deadly clashes.
The authorities launched the process of prosecuting dozens of figures, including senior members of Khan's PTI party, suspected of involvement in the protests in military court - usually reserved for service members or those categorized as enemies of the state.
The former prime minister, who is now way ahead of his rivals in popularity polls, denied the charges raised against his supporters and senior PTI members over the attacks.
He said the attacks were a "false flag operation" launched by the military and meant to target him. He accused the government of using the incident as a pretext to carry out an "unprecedented crackdown" on his supporters.
Khan, who had previously hinted that the military was behind the crackdown on his party, said in his latest interview that the military was to blame.
He bluntly accused Pakistan's powerful Army Chief Asim Munir of being "fixated" on sidelining him, saying he had no doubts that eventually he would be tried in a military court and thrown into prison by him.
"I think that maybe he has a grudge because I asked him to resign" as ISI chief in 2019, Khan said.
Munir was later promoted to the post of Army Chief by Khan's successor Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
"That's the only way they are going to get me into prison," Khan said. "I have absolutely no doubt that the military courts are meant for me," said Khan, who is out on bail.
Pakistan's military courts reportedly show disregard for due process and lack transparency, using coerced confessions to execute offenders after unfair trials.
Last April, Khan was ousted from office in a parliamentary vote. He claims his ouster was orchestrated by Pakistan's top generals. The year-long standoff between the popular cricketer-turned-politician and the country's powerful generals came to a head when military buildings and property were ransacked last month, allegedly by Khan's supporters.
He survived an assassination attempt last year when he was shot in the leg during a political rally.
Following his exit from power, Khan accused an unnamed "foreign power" -- in a clear reference to the United States -- of funding a "conspiracy" to topple his democratically elected government.
The ex-premier said the "foreign power" sent millions of dollars to opposition parties to launch a no-confidence vote against him in the parliament.