Pakistan in turmoil as more oppositon leaders arrested amid violent protests
Islamabad, May 11 (EFE).- Pakistan arrested the second-in-command of the political party led by imprisoned former prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday, amidst violent protests that have plunged the nuclear-armed South Asian country into fresh turmoil.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the largest political party in the country, announced that its vice president and former foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, along with other party leaders, were detained by the authorities.
The latest detentions come after the dramatic arrest of Khan from an Islamabad court on Tuesday, sparking fierce protests by his followers throughout Pakistan and resulting in the deaths of at least eight people.
“Vice president PTI Shah Mahmood Qureshi was arrested overnight,” the party tweeted.
The group posted Qureshi’s previously recorded video message, asking Pakistanis to “continue protesting peacefully wherever possible.”
“We must not retreat from our struggle for justice and the rule of law,” Qureshi said.
He criticized the authorities for “propaganda against PTI” and attempting to depict the street protests by its activists as “terrorism.”
He said the government was running a campaign to incite conflict and distrust between the party’s leadership and supporters.
Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim country with a population of 231 million, is currently in the midst of the third day of the crisis following the detention of Khan, one of the most prominent opposition leaders in the country, by paramilitary law enforcement officials during a bail hearing in Islamabad on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, a court directed that Khan be detained for eight days for an investigation into allegations of corruption against him.
According to his defense attorneys, the former prime minister was presented before a judge at a makeshift court located within a police complex.
The government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has not provided any official information regarding the number of casualties. However, PTI claims that over 50 people have lost their lives, and approximately 120 others have been injured.
According to a spokesperson from the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, they received three deceased individuals on Tuesday, while one of the injured patients passed away at the facility.
As per reports, at least four individuals lost their lives on Tuesday.
The deteriorating situation has compelled the government to request the army’s assistance in restoring order.
On Tuesday, some protesters broke into the army’s general headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi while others stormed regional military commands in Lahore and Peshawar.
The military responded Wednesday with a terse warning to protesters of “severe” reprisals in the event of further attacks on army installations.
Khan took office in 2018, promising an end to endemic corruption in the country and to create an Islamic welfare state as a response to Pakistan’s economic crisis.
But he lost power in a parliament trust vote in April 2022.
The 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician accused the military of a role in his ouster and trying to assassinate him.