Pakistan’s restive politics took a new turn as former prime minister Imran Khan has been taken into custody over corruption allegations during his appearance in the Islamabad High Court.
Khan has termed the charges ‘politically motivated’, and this dramatic move threatens fresh turmoil in the nuclear-armed country.
PROTESTS GROW AS VEHICLES IN PAKISTAN ARE SET ON FIRE AFTER IMRAN KHAN ARREST. pic.twitter.com/NDq9CoOhwA
— SHAHEEN SEHBAI (@SSEHBAI1) May 9, 2023
The cricket legend-turned-politician has accused Pakistani authorities of attempting to arrest him to remove him from the playing field ahead of a general election scheduled for October.
“[The government], they’re petrified that if I come into power, I will hold them accountable,” Khan said during the unrest outside his residence in March.
“They also know that even if I go to jail, we will swing the elections no matter what they do.”
Rangers paramilitary forces said that they were acting as part of the NAB’s investigation in the Al-Qadir Trust case. The armoured vehicles blocked the gate as the paramilitary personnel in riot-control gear whisked him away under heavy security.
International media is reporting about the abduction of Imran Khan and the fascism unleashed. #ReleaseImranKhan pic.twitter.com/3JghwhM3qs
— PTI (@PTIofficial) May 9, 2023
“Pakistan’s people, this is the time to save your country. You won’t get any other opportunity,” the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party wrote on Twitter.
The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf chairman was going for biometric verification at the IHC when he was taken into custody.
Khan has been taken into custody under Section 9A of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999.
National hero arrested
PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry said the political leader had been “whisked away by unknown people to an unknown location.”
Massive protests across Pakistan against the arrest of Imran Khan!! The establishment has not only killed the struggling democracy, it is killing the country! pic.twitter.com/xBTBz9XC6I
— Ashok Swain (@ashoswai) May 9, 2023
PTI Senator Faisal Javed Khan, in a video message on his twitter handle, confirmed Khan’s arrest. “National hero Imran Khan has been arrested illegally from the premises of the court. Exactly, he was appearing before the honourable judge for his bail when the police nabbed him. This is unacceptable we demand judiciary to intervene and take action against those who arrested him. People of Pakistan reject this illegal detention,” Senator Faisal Javed said.
The arrest comes at a time when ordinary Pakistanis are reeling from the worst economic crisis in decades, with record high inflation and anaemic growth.
An International Monetary Fund bailout package has been delayed for months even though foreign exchange reserves are barely enough to cover a month’s imports.
Pakistan Army General’s house in Lahore! Army takeover very likely as protest against Imran Khan’s arrest becoming big and violent. pic.twitter.com/LhzFIQFOGx
— Ashok Swain (@ashoswai) May 9, 2023
Dr Akbar Nasir Khan, a top police official in Islamabad, told DubaiNews.tv that Imran Khan was arrested in a case related to one Al-Qadir Trust. The Islamabad confirmed that the situation is under control.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah told reporters that Khan was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) after he did not appear before it “despite notices”.
The National Accountability (NAB) had issued arrest warrant for Khan on May 1 by NAB chairman Lt Gen (retd) Nazir Ahmad Butt in relation to the case.
Imran Khan, Former PM of Pakistan, and a key leader of Muslim world, presents himself in court for biometric verification, and is being arrested in a violent fashion! Looks more like “State Abduction & Terror” – Another sad day in the history of Bizarre Republic of Pakistan! pic.twitter.com/bVfKi9vsyP
— Moeed Pirzada (@MoeedNj) May 9, 2023
Khan’s lawyer Barrister Ali Gohar told media personnel that the Rangers personnel “tortured” the PTI chairman during the arrest. “Imran Khan was hit on the head and his injured leg,” he claimed.
“Rangers broke through the glass and entered the diary branch,” Advocate Gohar further said, adding the Rangers personnel broke IHC’s main gate before ransacking the IHC office.
Fawad Chaudhry of Khan’s PTI party tweeted that the Islamabad High Court complex was “occupied” by the Pakistani Rangers paramilitary and that lawyers were “subjected to torture”.
Peshawar right now#ReleaseImranKhan #نکلو_خان_کی_زندگی_بچاؤ#ImranKhan pic.twitter.com/wZrnrWsKN8
— Fauzia Siddiqui (@fozisidd) May 9, 2023
Footage showed paramilitary forces in armoured personnel carriers detaining Mr Khan after he entered the court compound, before driving him away.
Imran Khan was ousted as PM in April last year and has been campaigning for early elections since then. He has claimed his ousting was illegal and a western conspiracy and has campaigned against the government of his successor, Shehbaz Sharif, demanding early elections. Since then, dozens of cases have been brought against Mr Khan.
Take a look as DOZENS of paramilitary troops arrest former Pakistan PM & PTI Chief Imran Khan at the Islamabad High Court. The Sharif regime has taken a page out of the COMMUNIST PLAYBOOK: NO PERSON, NO PROBLEM.https://t.co/dkvR37ovVl
— Steve Hanke (@steve_hanke) May 9, 2023
Last November he survived a gun attack on his convoy while holding a protest march, near Punjab’s city of Wazirabad, some 150 km from Islamabad.
In March, the streets outside his residence in Lahore became something of a pitched battle between police and his supporters after officers attempted to arrest Khan for not showing up to court on corruption charges.
Supporters hurled stones and projectiles at police while people inside Khan’s residence lit fires after officers fired tear gas into the compound.
Imran Khan arrest is so far world's most important news story of the day. It's currently leading the main stream and social media platforms pic.twitter.com/mWVdxXSFIy
— Kamran Khan (@AajKamranKhan) May 9, 2023
Police later cut the electricity supply to Khan’s home and turned street lights off in the neighborhood. The operations was eventually called off.
IHC takes notice
Following Khan’s arrest, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq took notice of the matter, and summoned the Islamabad IGP and the interior secretary.
He also directed the additional attorney general to appear before the court and instructed him to immediately find out who was behind the arrest.
[english subtitles] Barrister Ali Gohar eyewitness account of abduction of Chairman PTI Imran Khan #ReleaseImranKhan pic.twitter.com/87VRjpzNHP
— PTI (@PTIofficial) May 9, 2023
“If an inquiry has to be conducted, action will also be taken against the prime minister and ministers,” the chief justice said.
What is Al-Qadir Trust case?
The former prime minister, along with his wife Bushra Bibi and other PTI leaders, are facing a NAB inquiry related to a settlement between the PTI government and a property tycoon, Riaz Malik, which reportedly caused a loss of 190 million pounds to the national exchequer.
As per the charges, Mr. Khan and others accused allegedly adjusted Rs.50 billion — 190 million pounds at the time — sent by Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) to the government.
They are also accused of getting undue benefit in the form of over 458 kanals of land at Mouza Bakrala, Sohawa, to establish Al Qadir University.
What happened today in Pakistan with the abduction of #ImranKhan from the headquarters of the Supreme Court, is similar to what happened with Egyptian President Morsi.
Imran’s life is in danger. The scene of Morsi may be repeated with IK.
🔴Pakistan may enter into a dark tunnel. pic.twitter.com/vKNMCTZEt8
— د.عـبدالله العـمـادي (@Abdulla_Alamadi) May 9, 2023
Political infighting is common in Pakistan, where no prime minister has yet fulfilled a full term and where the military has ruled for nearly half of the country’s history.
Protests erupt in Pakistan
Thousands take to the streets in the capital Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and other cities.
Police have fired water cannon and tear gas to quell protests that erupted in several cities across Pakistan hours after former Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested in connection with a corruption case.
Thousands of Khan’s supporters took to the streets on Tuesday in the capital Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and other cities to protest against his arrest.
In Islamabad, hundreds of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) activists blocked the main Kashmir Highway, which suspended traffic on either side of the road.
Reporting from Islamabad, Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder said “a precarious situation” is developing following Khan’s arrest.
“As the reports of Imran Khan’s arrest went across the country, protesters [took] to the streets and arrests are being made,” Hyder said. “There is considerable anger as far as Imran Khan’s supporters are concerned and the situation is escalating by the hour.”
Hyder added that officials anticipated the protests and have warned the public against participating in them.
“The inspector general of Islamabad police has said that anybody coming out to protest should be arrested,” he said.
Local broadcaster Geo News reported that police have arrested over a dozen of PTI workers after the two sides clashed at several points in the city.