Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan arrest sparks countrywide protests


Islamabad (AP) – Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested and dragged out of court in a rural city.

Khan’s arrest, who was ousted in a no-confidence vote in April 2022 but remains a major figure in the opposition, is the latest in a turmoil in Pakistan, which has long had former prime ministers arrested and intervened by a powerful military.

He was removed from the Islamabad High Court by National Accountability Office security forces, said Fawad Chowdhury, a senior official with Pakistan’s Teliku-e-Insaf party. He was then forced into an armored car and driven away.

Chaudhry has accused the 71-year-old former cricketer’s arrest of “kidnapping”. Independent GEO TV broadcast video of Khan being dragged out.

A brawl broke out between Khan’s supporters and the police outside the court. Several of Khan’s lawyers and supporters were injured in the brawl, and several police officers were also injured, Chaudhry said.

Police and government officials said Khan was taken to the garrison Rawalpindi near Islamabad and questioned at the National Accountability Office’s office. Police said he was also scheduled to undergo a routine medical examination.

Khan came from nearby Lahore where he lives to the Islamabad High Court to be charged in a transplant case. He accused the accusations against him, including terrorism charges, of a politically motivated conspiracy by his successor, Prime Minister Shabazz Sharif, and said his expulsion was illegal and a Western conspiracy. Khan campaigned against Sharif and called for early elections.

Tuesday’s arrest was based on a new National Accountability Service warrant obtained last week in a separate transplant case in which Khan was denied bail, leaving Khan at risk of a seizure and his attorneys dismissing the arrest. He is due to appear in an anti-corruption court , according to people familiar with the matter.

Home Minister Rana Sanaura Khan told a press conference: “Imran Khan has been arrested because he was wanted in a transplant case. He claimed Pakistan’s treasury lost millions of dollars because Khan illegally purchased land from a businessman during his tenure.

At a press conference, Justice Minister Azam Thaler said Khan had been arrested for failing to cooperate with the investigation. He also condemned violence by Khan supporters and said the protests must be maintained peacefully.

Authorities said they had banned gatherings in eastern Punjab. As news of the arrest spread, about 4,000 of Khan’s supporters broke into the regional commander’s official residence in Lahore, smashing windows and doors and smashing furniture while the army retreated there to avoid violence. Protesters also set fire to police vehicles and blocked major roads.

Protesters also demolished the main gate of the Army Headquarters in Garrison Rawalpindi, where the troops held detentions. Hundreds of protesters shouted pro-Khan slogans as they moved towards the sprawling building.

In the port city of Karachi, police brandished batons and fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of Khan supporters who had gathered on a key street.