Pakistan’s former PM Imran Khan arrested in Islamabad

Pakistan’s former PM Imran Khan arrested in Islamabad –

Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan has been arrested as he appeared in court in Islamabad to face charges in a corruption case, with scores of security forces in riot gear dragging the high-profile politician into an armoured vehicle.

The arrest of Khan – who was ousted from power last April and has evaded arrest several times since – came hours after he released a video message reiterating his allegations that the country’s powerful military establishment had tried to assassinate him twice.

Khan’s arrest is the latest twist in a political and economic crisis that pits the popular former premier against the military and the government, led by the prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, who he alleges have conspired to both remove him from power and make threats on his life, charges they deny.

Khan had travelled to Islamabad on Tuesday morning to seek bail in two corruption cases, some of several involving corruption, sedition and terrorism that he is facing. As he entered the court premises, Khan was arrested by agents from the National Accountability Bureau, the country’s anti-corruption body, who were followed by a heavy contingent of paramilitary officers. Khan was put into a tinted-window vehicle and driven off under heavy security, while a scuffle broke out between Khan’s supporters and police.

According to a statement released by Islamabad police, his detention was in connection to a separate case, known as the Al-Qadir Trust case, which involves allegations Khan earned billions of rupees through illegal land transactions and where he had not been granted bail.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party called his arrest a “black day for our democracy and country” and said their followers would take to the streets in protest. Fawad Chaudhry, a PTI spokesperson, alleged that Khan had been “abducted from court premises, scores of lawyers and general people have been tortured, Imran Khan has been whisked away by unknown people to an unknown location”.

In a video posted to PTI’s official Twitter account, the barrister Gohar Khan alleged that Khan had been hit in the head and the legs by rangers and paramilitary officers who entered the premises of the Islamabad high court to arrest him.

The interior minister, Rana Sanaullah, said Khan’s arrest was due to his involvement in a corruption case and denied all allegations of torture. “The arrest has been conducted by the National Accountability Bureau for causing losses to the national treasury,” he said.

Following Khan’s arrest, the chief justice of Islamabad, Justice Aamer Farooq, demanded an explanation “within 15 minutes” from the police chief and the interior ministry secretary as to why Khan had been detained. “Come to court and tell us why Imran has been arrested and in which case,” he said. Farooq warned that if they did not appear, he would summon both Khan and the prime minister, Sharif.

The arrest warrant for Khan was released soon after, dated 1 May, stating that Khan is accused of “corruption and corrupt practices”.

Insp Gen Akbar Nasir Khan, of Islamabad police, urged calm and said the situation in Islamabad was normal. However, in a bid to prevent protest, a section 144 was imposed in the city to prevent gatherings of more than five people and internet was cut off in some areas.

Since he fell from power in April last year in a vote of no confidence, Khan has been on a crusade against Pakistan’s powerful military establishment, and in particular, the senior army generals who it is widely acknowledged helped bring him to power. But after the relationship disintegrated, they also orchestrated his removal as prime minister.

He accused the military and the Sharif government of a “western-backed conspiracy” to topple him from power and of being behind an attempt on his life in November last year, when a gunman opened fire during a rally in Punjab and Khan was shot in the leg. This week, the media wing of the armed forces had issued another strongly worked rebuttal of Khan’s allegations.

Yet during this time, Khan’s popularity his soared, with many admiring his determination to go up against Pakistan’s military establishment, who have long been Pakistan’s political puppet masters. There is widespread discontentment at the Sharif government, as inflation and food shortages have rocketed, and it is widely expected that Khan could return to power in the next general election, due in October, if he is not disqualified from politics before them.

Khan has been pressuring the Sharif government to call an early general election, claiming that the coalition governmentthat took power after he was removed was “illegitimate”.

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