Although the Pakistani Taliban oppose the strikes, which have killed many of their fighters, spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan said they would target Khan because he calls himself a “liberal”. Ahsan also warned they would attack anyone who participates in upcoming elections.
“If he comes, our suicide bombers will target him,” Ahsan said in an interview in the militant group’s South Waziristan stronghold. “We will kill him.”
The threat could come as a surprise to many in Pakistan who have criticised Khan for not being tough enough on the Pakistani Taliban and instead focusing most of his criticism on the government’s alliance with the US. Some critics have nicknamed him “Taliban Khan” because of his views and his cosy ties with conservative Islamists who could help him attract rightwing voters in national elections likely to be held later this year or early next year.
Khan, who is the founder of the Pakistan Movement for Justice party, has gained momentum over the last year after more than a decade in politics. He is perhaps the most famous person in Pakistan because he led the country’s cricket team to victory in the 1992 World Cup.