Leaders and world bodies call for restraint and raise alarm after Pakistani authorities suspend mobile internet.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has been arrested on corruption charges by the country’s paramilitary forces in capital Islamabad.
Khan’s arrest on Tuesday sparked nationwide protests and demonstrations, while the government blocked internet services in big cities.
The 70-year-old opposition leader appeared in a court on Wednesday where the authorities are seeking approval to keep the opposition leader in custody for 14 days.
On Tuesday, Khan was appearing in the Islamabad High Court on multiple corruption charges when dozens of agents from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), backed by paramilitary troops, stormed the courtroom and broke windows after Khan’s guards refused to open the door.
The shock arrest deepened an ongoing political turmoil and sparked violent demonstrations across the country, in which at least one person was killed in the southwestern city of Quetta. Dozens of other PTI supporters were wounded in clashes with the security forces.
The arrest and consequential protests have led to officials of other governments and world bodies to call for restraint and calm.
Here is how the world reacted to Khan’s arrest:
The United States has called for respect for democratic principles and the rule of law in Pakistan.
“We are aware of the arrest of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. As we have said before, the United States does not have a position on one political candidate or party versus another,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at her daily news conference.
“We call for the respect of democratic principles and the rule of law around the world. So I would refer you to the government of Pakistan for any further information on that,” she said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he wants the rule of law to be followed in the South Asian country.
“I have seen the reports that you have alluded to and we just want to make sure that whatever happens in Pakistan is consistent with the rule of law with the constitution showing,” Blinken told reporters at a joint news conference with his British counterpart.
UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said he has not yet had the opportunity to be briefed in detail on the developments in Pakistan, but the UK wants to see “peaceful democracy” in the country.
“The UK has a longstanding and close relationship with Pakistan. We are Commonwealth partners. We want to see peaceful democracy in that country. We want to see the rule of law adhered to. I am uncomfortable to speculate any further without having a detailed briefing on that,” Cleverly said.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn, a prominent member of British Parliament and former leader of the Labour Party, condemned Khan’s arrest on Twitter.
“The arrest of former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, is a dark day for democracy,” he tweeted.
The arrest of former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, is a dark day for democracy.
Solidarity with protestors in Pakistan and beyond demanding his immediate release. pic.twitter.com/qXgQGjhfe2
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) May 10, 2023
A top UN official on Tuesday stressed the need to ensure all political figures in Pakistan are treated fairly and that due process is followed.
The official’s comments came hours after Khan was arrested.
In a statement, the EU emphasised that in such “difficult and tense times” in Pakistan, “restraint and cool headedness were needed”.
“Pakistan’s challenges can only be addressed and its pathway can only be determined by Pakistanis themselves, through sincere dialogue and in line with the rule of law,” it said.
Rights group Amnesty International said it was concerned about the “escalation in clashes” and called on the Pakistani authorities to “show restraint”.
“The clashes unfolding between Imran Khan’s supporters and security enforcement following the former prime minister’s arrest risks several human rights violations,” it said in a tweet.
The human rights non-profit also expressed concerns about the suspension of mobile internet service and the blockage of social media applications.
It said the suspension “restricts people’s access to information and freedom of expression”.
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