An adviser to Pakistani ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan and the news chief of the private TV station that aired his recent comments about the country's powerful military will face sedition charges, the interior minister has said.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah's announcement on August 10 follows the arrests late on August 9 of prominent Khan adviser Shahbaz Gill and the head of the news department of private broadcaster ARY News, Ammad Yousaf.
"We've set up a special team to probe [the charges]," Sanaullah told reporters in the capital, Islamabad. "It was a planned move to malign our institutions."
In a current-affairs program broadcast by ARY on August 8, Gill suggested the ruling party was behind a smear campaign against the army. He added that army officers should not follow "illegal and unconstitutional orders."
Gill is a key adviser to Khan, who was ousted after three years in office by a no-confidence vote in April.
He was accused of "hateful statements against the army" and of trying to "incite soldiers against military" structures.
Police said a case was filed against Gill and several ARY News employees on August 8 in the Malir district of Karachi.
The state-run media regulator suspended ARY's broadcasting on August 9 for what it alleged was "false, hateful, and seditious" content.
An ARY presenter was also said to have been detained.
ARY's coverage is regarded as generally friendly toward Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf party.
Before his arrest, Yousaf, who is also ARY's vice president, called officials' decision to suspend the channel's broadcasts "illegal and ridiculous" and vowed to challenge it in court.
Khan called Gill's apprehension "an abduction, not an arrest."
On Twitter, Khan added: "Can such shameful acts take place in any democracy? Political workers treated as enemies. And all to make us accept a foreign-backed government of crooks."
The Pakistani Federal Union of Journalists warned of nationwide protests if full transmission was not restored.