Islamabad court declares ex-PM Imran Khan’s arrest legal, violent protests rage across Pakistan

The Islamabad High Court on Tuesday night upheld the arrest of former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan, saying that all legal formalities were fulfilled by the National Accountability Bureau, dashing the hopes of his party. The court issued its reserved ruling, upsetting the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which claimed the arrest was illegal.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Aamer Farooq took notice of the arrest by paramilitary rangers when Khan was present inside the court to mark his biometric attendance before the start of the hearing of another case.

The IHC issued its reserved judgment about the arrest, saying that all legal formalities were fulfilled by the National Accountability Bureau, the anti-corruption watchdog, while carrying out the arrest of Khan.

Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan was arrested on Tuesday (May 9) during a court appearance at the Islamabad High Court in connection with several lawsuits brought against the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The move has since sparked violent protests across the country. 

The arrest was made on National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) warrant, as the department is currently investigating the Al-Qadir Trust case. The former PM left for the high court for a hearing at 10:00 am (local time) where he was supposed to file bail applications in seven cases. 

Videos shared by the PTI show Rangers personnel breaking windows in their attempt to get to their party’s chairman. The lawmakers in Khan’s party also claimed that he was abducted by the country’s army. The arrest also comes a day after the country’s powerful military rebuked him for repeatedly accusing a senior military officer of plotting his assassination. 

According to Geo News, the PTI chairman was in the court’s biometric verification department when he was nabbed by paramilitary men. The Rawalpindi-headquartered NAB issued Khan’s arrest warrant under the accusations of “commission of the offence of corruption and corrupt practices” under relevant sections of Pakistan’s anti-corruption law. 

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah told reporters that Khan’s arrest came after he ignored notices to turn himself in, in connection with a case pursued by the anti-corruption body. 

“Imran Khan did not appear despite the notices, NAB has arrested him for damaging the national treasury. No violence was done to them,” said the interior minister, on Twitter. However, PTI leaders have denied the claims and said that the former PM had not been issued any arrest warrant before Tuesday.

The violence that followed

In the videos of his arrest, Khan can be seen being whisked away into a police van while being surrounded by several policemen. This also prompted a fight between Imran Khan’s supporters and the police. The Islamabad Police said that Section 144 had been imposed in the city amidst the outcry. 

The clashes have left at least one protester dead. Some protesters also stormed the residence of the corps commander in Lahore and laid siege to a gate of the army’s general headquarters in the city of Rawalpindi. 

As the protests grew in several cities across Pakistan, police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse Khan supporters in Karachi and Lahore. According to media reports, demonstrators blocked roads in the capital Islamabad, Peshawar, and other cities. Khan’s supporters allegedly also set ablaze the building of Radio Pakistan in Peshawar. 

Pakistani officials have imposed an emergency order banning all gatherings in three of the country’s four provinces. Additionally, the country’s telecommunications watchdog told Reuters that mobile data services were being suspended after an order from the interior ministry. 

Additionally, Internet’s Observatory, NetBlocks, late Tuesday, said “social media restrictions, real-time network data show that total internet shutdowns are now in effect in some regions of Pakistan.” 

Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are now restricted across Pakistan which is “likely to limit freedom of assembly and the public’s ability to seek information,” said NetBlocks in a subsequent update. 

The former international cricketer turned politician is currently facing multiple lawsuits and is accused of a number of violations across Pakistan, including corruption while serving as the country’s prime minister. Tuesday’s arrest was made in connection with Khan’s involvement in the Al-Qadir Trust case. 

Imran Khan, his wife Bushra Bibi, and other PTI party leaders allegedly committed wrongdoing while founding Al-Qadir University and the trust formed to back the university. The allegations suggest that an agreement between his government and a real estate magnate cost Pakistan’s struggling economy $50 billion. 

Speaking about the party’s course of action, PTI official Asad Umar told Al Jazeera, that its legal team will file an appeal in the country’s Supreme Court to challenge the decision by Islamabad High Court which has called Khan’s arrest legal. 

In a statement, amid protests over Imran Khan’s arrest, his party PTI has instructed party leaders, workers and supporters to gather outside Islamabad Judicial Complex at 8:00 am (local time) on Wednesday. 

ANI news agency, citing defence sources, said that the neighbouring country India is keeping a close watch on the situation in Pakistan, in view of the developments there. Additionally, a strong vigil is being maintained by the forces along the Line of Control and the international border. 

Top diplomats from the United States and the United Kingdom, in a joint press conference called for adherence to the “rule of law” in Pakistan after violent protests. “We just want to make sure that whatever happens in Pakistan is consistent with the rule of law, with the constitution,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly alongside Blinken, acknowledged the “a longstanding and close relationship” with Pakistan and said “We want to see peaceful democracy in that country. We want to see the rule of law adhered to.” 

(With inputs from agencies) 

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