Violent protests broke out in several cities across Pakistan on Tuesday after former Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested soon after he appeared at the Islamabad High Court for a hearing in a corruption case, Al Jazeera reported.
Video shared on social media showed Khan’s supporters entering the Army headquarters in Rawalpindi and the Corps Commander’s home in Lahore.
The Islamabad Police official Twitter account said Khan was arrested in a corruption case related to Al-Qadir University for Sufism in Punjab province. Khan and his wife, Bushra Bibi, had allegedly acquired land worth billions of rupees for their university from Malik Riaz, a property tycoon.
The National Accountability Bureau has alleged that Khan struck a quid-pro-quo deal with Riaz in connection with the university that caused a loss of more than $239 million to the national exchequer, according to Al-Jazeera.
Khan is facing at least 121 cases across Pakistan, according to PTI. These include cases related to treason, blasphemy, inciting violence and terrorism.
Khan’s aide Fawad Chaudhry told the Associated Press that the 70-year-old was dragged outside the court complex and pushed into a police vehicle by agents from the National Accountability Bureau – the country’s anti-corruption body.
Chaudhry, a leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, in a tweet termed the arrest an “abduction” and alleged that their lawyers were being subjected to torture. “Imran Khan has been whisked away by unknown people to an unknown location,” he added.
Videos on social media showed scores of security personnel escorting Khan towards an armoured vehicle.
A video released by Khan’s party – the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf – shows the former prime minister talking about his possible arrest.
“Till the time these words of mine reach you, I will be arrested in a baseless case,” Khan said in the video. “This shows that fundamental rights and democracy in Pakistan have been buried. All this is being done because they want me to accept the corrupt, imported government that has been forcefully imposed on us.”
The protests broke out after Khan’s party exhorted citizens to “come out and defend their country”. A large number of Khan’s supporters gathered in Peshawar, Faisalabad, Gilgit, Karachi and other cities.
On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that Khan failed to appear before the court in Al-Qadir University case despite being issued several notices.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has approached the High Court after the former premier was whisked away under heavy security, prompting Chief Justice Aamer Farooq to summon the Islamabad police chief, the interior ministry secretary and the additional attorney general to explain why Khan was arrested, Dawn reported.
Khan was prime minister of Pakistan from 2018 until 2022, when he was ousted from office in a parliamentary vote. Since then, has been booked in several cases.
However, Khan has refused to appear before courts, alleging that the cases against him are a plot by his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, to discredit him.