Pakistan opposition: 4 Dead in protests following Khan’s arrest
Islamabad, May 9 (EFE).- At least four people died and dozens more were injured Tuesday in disturbances across Pakistan following the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, spokespeople for his PTI party said.
Four of Khan’s supporters were killed in the cities of Quetta, Faisalabad, Chakdara, and Lahore, according to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice), the largest party in South Asian nation of more than 231 million people.
The PTI also said that an undetermined number of people have been arrested, including regional political leaders.
Images of people lying on the ground bleeding have circulated during the course of the day, but authorities have offered no information on casualties.
Some of Tuesday’s most dramatic scenes unfolded in Rawalpindi, where dozens of protesters broke down the gates of the Pakistani armed forces General Headquarters.
The only previous occasion of such a breach was in 2009, during an attack by the Pakistani Taliban.
Khan supporters also attacked the residences of senior military officers in the cities of Lahore and Peshawar, destroying windows, doors, and furniture, as captured in videos shared on social media.
The government shut down Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube in much of the country, blocking both the internet and mobile data.
Authorities suspended the right of assembly in Islamabad and throughout Khan’s native province of Punjab.
Even so, as midnight approached, thousands of people remained on the streets of major cities demanding Khan’s release despite a ruling by the Islamabad High Court that the arrest was lawful.
Khan, who faces several corruption and terrorism charges filed after his ouster last year by parliament in a vote of no-confidence, was grabbed Tuesday morning by members of the Pakistan Rangers, a paramilitary law enforcement corps when he came to the court in Islamabad for a bail hearing.
Videos posted online showed agents in black uniforms dragging Khan and shoving him into a police vehicle.
Islamabad police said Khan was taken into custody in a graft case relating to alleged financial malpractices in setting up a multi-million dollar university trust in Punjab.
But PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry described the event as an “abduction” and said that Khan had been “whisked away by unknown people to an unknown location.”
The PTI tweeted several video clips showing angry protesters clashing with police, who fired dozens of tear-gas shells at a crowd in one of the clips.
The party called on people to come out “to save Pakistan” from a government that has “crossed the red line.”
Khan claims the charges against him are part of a ploy by the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to get rid of the opposition.
The 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician was wounded in an assassination attempt during a rally last November. The shooting left one of his supporters dead and 13 others injured.
Khan accuses the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of plotting to kill him, though he has provided no evidence, and the military denounced him Monday for making “fabricated and malicious allegations.”
The former prime minister repeated the allegations in a video message early Tuesday in which he also predicted his arrest, saying that the government wanted to prevent him from campaigning for upcoming elections.