Arrest of Imran Khan arrested in Pakistan sparks unrest – The Washington Post

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan’s main opposition leader and former prime minister, Imran Khan, was arrested Tuesday, authorities said, raising the stakes of the country’s political crisis and sparking clashes between his supporters and police.
The arrest prompted demonstrations across the country, and widespread internet outages were reported. Security forces deployed tear gas and water cannons in confrontations with Khan supporters in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and other cities. The former prime minister’s party claimed that several protesters were killed and dozens injured. Authorities did not immediately release their own figures.
Some demonstrators targeted military sites — a rare focus in a country where the military wields substantial power.
Khan was ousted by parliament last April after, according to his allies, the military dropped its support for him. Public disputes between Khan, the military and the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had mounted in intensity over the past days, after Khan accused a senior officer of involvement in an assassination attempt against him in November, which he narrowly survived. Military and government officials have strongly denied those claims.
Khan, who is expected to run in general elections later this year, has described himself for months as the victim of a plot. Several attempts to arrest him failed, including one in March that resulted in violent clashes.
Pakistani authorities said Khan’s arrest on Tuesday was linked to a corruption and money laundering case that has been evolving for months. The former prime minister also faces a number of other charges in separate cases, all of which he has rejected.
Pakistani authorities said they had unsuccessfully sought Khan’s cooperation in the corruption probe. He was subsequently arrested by officers on high court premises in the capital, Islamabad, where he was to attend hearings linked to different cases on Tuesday.
Pakistani police battle protesters in attempt to arrest opposition leader
Footage distributed by Khan’s party showed the opposition leader being pushed into a law enforcement vehicle. Officials said the arresting officers — members of a paramilitary force — were operating on a warrant from the country’s anti-corruption watchdog.
They denied accusations from Khan’s allies that the former prime minister was beaten during his arrest. Neither side immediately provided evidence to back its claims.
As he left his residence in the city of Lahore to attend the scheduled court hearings in Islamabad early Tuesday, Khan released a video message in which he said he is “ready to go to jail,” but added that the accusations against him are unsubstantiated.
Later, in a response to Khan on Twitter, Sharif, the prime minister, accused his predecessor of “blatant lies, untruths, U-turns, and vicious attacks on institutions.” He charged that Khan was bending “the judiciary to your whims and behaving as if rules don’t apply to you.”
But members of Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or Movement for Justice, say they suspect the timing of his arrest suggests it is politically motivated. The government has repeatedly sought to delay key regional votes this year after Khan performed above expectations in by-elections last October, and it recently appeared to run out of options to stall further, its critics say.
The country’s deteriorating economic situation has become the top concern among many voters, with the current government and Khan trading blame over the root causes of the crisis. Financial experts fear that the country may be on the verge of defaulting on its international loans.
Amir Khan, a 28-year-old who protested in support of the former prime minister’s release in Peshawar on Tuesday, said radical measures are needed to confront Pakistan’s mounting challenges.
“This time we will teach the government a lesson,” he said, adding that a “revolution is needed to restore civilian leadership.”
“If a leader and former prime minister is not safe, how could a common citizen be protected?” asked Ihtesham ul Haq, a 22-year-old civil engineer who also attended the protest.
Noack reported from Doha, Qatar, and Nawaz Khan from Peshawar, Pakistan.


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