'Time for Musharraf to resign' - Jemima Khan

Ex-wife of imprisoned opposition leader Imran Khan to lead London protests against emergency rule
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The Independent Online

Jemima Khan received a message from her former husband yesterday, smuggled out of the high-security jail in Pakistan where he is being held. She told The Independent on Sunday, "Imran wanted our son Sulaiman to know that he was thinking of him. He's 11 today."

The cricket legend and party leader was arrested last week as President Pervez Musharraf continued to lock up his opponents under the state of emergency he has imposed. Yesterday the President told the BBC he would release political prisoners "within a few days" – but that drew only scorn from Ms Khan, 33, the former socialite turned campaigner who will lead a protest outside the Pakistan High Commission in London today.

"It is time for Musharraf to resign," she said. "The country is in chaos. He says he will release my ex-husband and the others and hold elections, but then he says they will be arrested again if they start to agitate. Well how do you define agitation? How can you hold elections if no electioneering is allowed? "

She was speaking after seeing online footage of Imran Khan's female relatives being arrested during a protest outside the prison where he was first held. "All of them were rounded up, including his elderly aunt," she said. "I've watched my ex-sisters-in-law, whom I lived with in Pakistan, being dragged across the floor and bundled into vans. His niece, who was pregnant, was shoved into a van. She then went into labour."

Today's protest will also call for the judiciary to be restored in Pakistan, where members of the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice who opposed the President have been suspended. "Democracy is not possible while he has puppet judges in place," she said.

More than 2,000 people are expected to turn up, said Ms Khan, including friends who knew Imran Khan when he was Pakistan cricket captain and a dashing playboy. He had returned to Islam by 1995, when he met and married Jemima, daughter of the financier Sir James Goldsmith.

Their two sons are now in London. The older, Sulaiman, will not be at the protest. "Last time we did this he found the crowds quite intimidating," said Ms Khan. "But I'll take my little one, who is eight, and get him to chant and hold a placard. He loves it."

Yesterday President Musharraf suggested the crackdown was partly for the security of those who had been arrested. "That is totally disingenuous," said Ms Khan. "Imran has been charged with state terrorism. That is very serious, and carries the death penalty or life imprisonment in Pakistan." Some lawyers who protested against the suspension of the judiciary have been charged with treason, a capital offence. "All those offences are non-bailable, and the intention is clearly to silence them for as long as necessary."

Ms Khan added: "We will keep making a noise, to say, 'We know people can't demonstrate in Pakistan but we can here. We're watching what is going on and it's not acceptable.'"

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