• Wednesday, October 04, 2023

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Imran Khan faces court after arrest prompts riots in Pakistan

Local media reported two deaths in clashes, while police said at least 150 people had been arrested

A policeman (R) throws a stone towards Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party activists and supporters of former Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran blocking a road during a protest against the arrest of their leader in Karachi on May 9, 2023. (Photo: Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan is scheduled to appear in a special court located at the police headquarters in the capital city, where he will address allegations of corruption on Wednesday (10). His unexpected arrest triggered widespread violent protests throughout the country.

Khan’s detention comes after a prolonged period of political turmoil and was executed shortly after the influential military criticised the former international cricketer for accusing a senior officer of being involved in a conspiracy to assassinate him.

As a result of their anger, certain protesters directed their outrage towards the military, setting fire to the residence of the corps commander in Lahore and besieging the entrance to the army’s general headquarters in Rawalpindi, a city known for its military presence.

Pakistan politicians have frequently been arrested and jailed since the country’s founding in 1947, but few have so directly challenged a military that has staged at least three coups and had ruled for more than three decades.

In Peshawar, a mob razed the Chaghi monument — a mountain-shaped sculpture honouring the location of Pakistan’s first nuclear test.

Several memorials to service members killed on active duty were also vandalised.

Police fought pitched battles with supporters of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in cities across the country for hours on Tuesday (9) night.

Tempers appeared to have cooled on Wednesday morning but there was a huge security presence across the capital, particularly outside the so-called police lines where the special court will convene.

Authorities also ordered schools closed across the country and continued restricting access to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

“At a time we are already struggling to feed our children, further uncertainty has been created,” Farooq Bhatti, a van driver, told AFP in Rawalpindi Wednesday morning.

“The violence will not serve anyone… everyone will be affected… but I doubt the decision makers care.”

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, vice chairman of the PTI, urged supporters to keep protesting in a “lawful and peaceful manner”, adding party lawyers would file multiple appeals and petitions against Khan’s arrest.

Khan’s lawyers were told on Wednesday to wait outside the police HQ compound from where they would be escorted to the makeshift court.

“No PTI senior leader or lawyer knows about Khan’s conditions. We are denied access to him,” lawyer Faisal Hussain Chaudhry told AFP.

“Will there be any justice under the shadow of guns?”

The case that led to Khan’s arrest on Tuesday was brought by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Pakistan’s top anti-corruption body, which said he had ignored repeated summons to appear in court.

Khan has faced dozens of charges since being ousted in April, a tactic analysts say successive Pakistan governments have used to silence their opponents.

He could be barred from holding public office if convicted, which would exclude him from elections scheduled for later this year.

Khan’s arrest came a day after the military warned him against making “baseless allegations” after he again accused a senior officer of plotting to kill him.

The rebuke late Monday underscored how far Khan’s relations have deteriorated with the military, which backed his rise to power in 2018 but withdrew its support ahead of a parliamentary vote of no confidence that ousted him last year.

(AFP)

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