Former Pakistan PM Khan says he 'regrets' comments on magistrate

Despite his ousting, Mr Imran Khan retains widespread support, staging mass rallies railing against the government. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD - Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan said he "regrets" comments he made about a magistrate in a rally speech, but stopped short of a full apology ahead of a court appearance on Thursday where he faces a contempt hearing.

The hearing is the latest twist in months of political wrangling that started even before he was ousted in April by a vote of no confidence in the national assembly.

Mr Khan was last week given seven days by the Islamabad High Court to answer contempt of court charges brought for criticising the magistrate responsible for keeping a party leader in police custody, after also claiming the official had been tortured.

"The respondent takes this opportunity to express his deep regrets over his unintentional utterances during the course of his speech," Mr Khan said in formal reply submitted to the court ahead of Thursday's hearing - a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

"Those utterances were unintentional and not meant to be directed towards the lady judge for whom he has a lot of respect."

The original reply submitted by Mr Khan last week was rejected by the court, but his latest response still did not offer an apology and instead asked to court to accept his "explanation".

"The respondent beseeches that the said Islamic principles of... forgiveness would also be followed in this case," it said.

Despite his ousting, Mr Khan retains widespread support, staging mass rallies railing against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's government and scoring successes in recent provincial assembly by-elections.

Mr Khan is also due in the separate Anti-Terrorism Court on Friday when his bail is due to expire in a separate case regarding the same comments he made about the judge.

Pakistan has a history of those in power using the police and courts to stifle political opponents, and Mr Sharif also has several pending cases against him from his time in opposition.

The political turmoil comes as Pakistan deals with devastating floods caused by record monsoon rains that have left a third of the country under water and affected more than 33 million people. AFP

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