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Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Pakistan’s Ex-PM Imran Khan Arrested, Sparking Violence


Tue 09 May 2023 | 10:02 PM
By Ahmad El-Assasy

Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, was detained and hauled from court as he seemed to be charged in many fraud cases. This sudden escalation in political tensions provoked violent protests by Imran Khan's incensed followers across the nation.

Khan's detention was the most recent conflict to shake Pakistan, which has seen past prime ministers imprisoned over the years and interventions by its strong military. Khan was removed in a no-confidence vote in April 2022 but continues to be the major opposition figure.

In Quetta, the capital of the Baluchistan province, there were skirmishes between protestors and the military that resulted in at least one death and five injuries. In Karachi, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, and Lahore, there were similar incidents that resulted in approximately 15 casualties. To disperse protests, police used tear gas.

Officials from Pakistan's telecommunications administration said that during the unrest, authorities banned social media sites like Twitter and halted internet connectivity in the country's capital, Islamabad, and other locations. Some private schools cancelled classes on Wednesday.

According to Fawad Chaudhry, a senior leader with his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, Khan was dragged from the Islamabad High Court by National Accountability Bureau security agents before being thrown into an armoured car and driven away.

Chaudhry denounced the arrest of the 71-year-old former cricket star as “an abduction”. Pakistan’s independent GEO TV broadcast video of Khan being hauled away.

A scuffle broke out between Khan’s supporters and police outside the court. Some of Khan’s lawyers and supporters were injured in the melee, as were several police, Chaudhry said.

Khan was taken to the garrison city of Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, for questioning at the offices of the National Accountability Bureau, according to police and government officials. He also was to undergo a routine medical checkup, police said.

Khan had arrived at the Islamabad High Court from nearby Lahore, where he lives, to face charges in the graft cases.

He has denounced the cases against him, which include terrorism charges, as a politically motivated plot by his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, saying his ouster was illegal and a Western conspiracy. Khan has campaigned against Sharif and demanded early elections.

Tuesday’s arrest was based on a new warrant from the National Accountability Bureau obtained last week in a separate graft case for which Khan had not been granted bail. His lawyers challenged the legality of the arrest, but the court upheld it, although it added that Khan should not have been forcibly removed from the courtroom. Khan is scheduled to appear at an anti-graft tribunal on Wednesday, officials said.

Khan had arrived at the Islamabad High Court from nearby Lahore, where he lives, to face charges in the graft cases.

He has denounced the cases against him, which include terrorism charges, as a politically motivated plot by his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, saying his ouster was illegal and a Western conspiracy. Khan has campaigned against Sharif and demanded early elections.

Tuesday’s arrest was based on a new warrant from the National Accountability Bureau obtained last week in a separate graft case for which Khan had not been granted bail. His lawyers challenged the legality of the arrest, but the court upheld it, although it added that Khan should not have been forcibly removed from the courtroom. Khan is scheduled to appear at an anti-graft tribunal on Wednesday, officials said.

“Imran Khan has been arrested because he was being sought in a graft case,” Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan told a news conference. He alleged Pakistan’s treasury had lost millions of dollars while Khan was in office due to illegal purchases of lands from a business tycoon.

The National Accountability Bureau is Pakistan’s powerful anti-corruption organization that has detained and investigated former officials, including prime ministers, politicians and retired military officers. But some view the NAB as a tool used by those in power, especially the military, to crack down on political opponents. When Khan was in power, his government arrested Sharif, then the opposition leader, through the NAB.

At a news conference, Law Minister Azam Tarar said Khan was arrested because he was not cooperating with the investigations. He also denounced the violence by Khan supporters, saying that protests must remain peaceful.

“It should have not happened,” he said, shortly after TV video emerged of burning vehicles and damaged public property in parts of the country.

Authorities said they have banned rallies in the eastern province of Punjab.