Pakistan’s flamboyant Opposition leader Imran Khan today faced a major crisis after the National Assembly decided to form a special committee to probe sexual harassment charges against him by a prominent woman lawmaker of his party.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, soon after the swearing-in of his Cabinet, called for the formation of a special committee to investigate the allegations of harassment levelled against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman and former Pakistan cricket team captain Khan by the Member of the National Assembly, Ayesha Gulalai.
Gulalai has alleged that Khan, 64, had hinted towards tying the knot in the texts sent to her, which also included lewd messages.
Khan has rejected the allegations and said that the ruling PML-N has used her and bought her.
“This is the tried and tested method of the PML-N,” Khan told a private television channel yesterday, refering to the Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League.
Prime Minister Abbasi, in his address to lawmakers, called for the formation of a special committee to probe the allegations against Khan in-camera and suggested that the committee present a report before the House after its investigation so that the “matter can be closed”.
“Both the PTI chief and Gulalai are respectable personalities; therefore, a committee should be formed to probe the allegations, Abbasi told the assembly.
The assembly then passed the motion and directed the committee to submit its report within a month, Dawn newspaper reported.
The prime minister assured both the accused and the accuser they would be respected, adding that the PTI chief had the “right to defend himself”.
The speaker has been asked to form the committee and include members of both treasury and opposition benches in it, Geo TV reported.
The resolution was supported by the PML-N, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement.
Abbasi also promised round-the-clock protection for Gulalai after she claimed on television that she was scared for her life.
While announcing her resignation from the party earlier this week, Gulalai had accused Khan and his “gang” of having an “immoral character”.
The lawmaker from Waziristan alleged that Khan “would forward inappropriate and explicit text messages to party women”, claiming that she received the first such message in 2013.
Gulalai’s allegations against Khan has caused a furore among party members and deepened an existing rift with the ruling PML-N, with PTI accusing them of allegedly masterminding a ploy to malign the party chief, who had initiated the corruption case against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif under the Pananma Papers leaks. Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court in the case.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf rejected the demand for a bi-partisan parliamentary committee to probe Gulalai’s allegations against party chairman Khan.
Speaking in a press conference, a party leader said: “we will not accept the committee of our political rivals. We are ready for the probe but investigation on the issue must be transparent.”
He wondered how the probe could be independent and transparent when political rivals will be investigating the case.
He claimed that the Pakistan Muslim League is running a dirty campaign against Khan.