Former Prime Minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf founder Imran Khan (C) waves to supporters during a "real freedom" march on Islamabad in October, six months after his term came to an abrupt end. Khan blames Washington for supporting rival parties led by his successor Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League. File photo by Rahat Dar/EPA-EFE
March 6 (UPI) -- Pakistan's media regulator has banned the country's broadcast media from covering the speeches and press conferences of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, accusing him of undermining the state and inciting hate.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority's ban follows a speech Khan gave Sunday in the eastern city of Lahore in which he accused former army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa of being behind his removal from power in April.
"It has been observed that Mr. Imran Khan, Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, in his speeches/statements is continuously ... leveling baseless allegations and spreading hate speech through his provocative statements against state institutions and officers, which is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order and is likely to disturb public peace and tranquility," the ban order by PEMRA reads.
One channel, ARY News, had its license suspended by PEMRA shortly after broadcasting Khan's speech.
The channel is no longer on air, replaced with a placeholder message with details of the ban.
The move to gag Khan sparked condemnation from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, which demanded the ban be "lifted immediately."
"We have always opposed measures to curb voices in the past -- whether under the previous government or earlier -- and we continue to stand by our commitment to freedom of speech, irrespective of the person's political opinion," it said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Fellow PTI member Hammad Azhar said the country was "fast descending into darkness" amid the government's "concerted efforts" to threaten democracy.
"This [ban on Khan's speeches] is not only unconstitutional as it goes against freedom of expression. ... There cannot be a blanket ban on speeches of politicians. Other than questions of legality, it is also extremely anti-democratic in nature.
"This regime is petrified of Imran Khan and his ever-soaring popularity, he is now seen as a prime minister-in-waiting. We are seeing police action against Khan and the party workers," Azhar said.
"There is a media crackdown. We are fast becoming a fascist state."
Khan made the speech after reportedly evading arrest by police from Islamabad who went to Lahore after he failed to respond to a High Court summons to appear on Tuesday.
Sunday's events come a little more than a week after Pakistan's top federal investigatory agency accused Khan of misusing his bail status to avoid court appearances on charges of receiving prohibited funds brought in from overseas.
The Federal Investigation Agency made the accusation as the court ordered Khan to present himself in court.
The 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician survived an assassination attempt at a political rally in November and subsequently had his interim bail extended on medical grounds as a result of his injured leg.
"After getting an interim bail, the accused is misusing the concessions and not appearing before this honorable court and in fact, he is not cooperating with the process of law and till date, neither he joined the investigation nor is he appearing before the court on one pretext or the other," the FIA said in a statement.
Khan, who was ousted in a no-confidence vote in April, has alleged he is the victim of a U.S.-led conspiracy to unseat him.