Protesters storm Pakistani military base after ex-PM’s arrest
(Update 2: updates with the military base incident, new clashes)
Islamabad, May 9 (EFE).- A group of protesters on Tuesday broke into a military base in Pakistan as violence broke out in several parts of the country hours after authorities arrested former prime minister Imran Khan.
Dozens of people carrying rods approached the General Headquarters of the Pakistani military in the city of Rawalpindi in the Punjab provinces and broke open the gates by force, with videos from the site being shared by several local media outlets.
The only time the headquarters of the powerful military were breached earlier was in 2009, during an attack of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the main Taliban branch in the country.
Stick-carrying supporters of Khan also attacked the residences of military officers in the cities of Lahore and Peshawar, destroying windows, doors and furniture in their wake, as evident clips shared on social media.
Clashes have broken out in several parts of the country after the former prime minister and head of the main opposition party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was arrested by paramilitary troopers from a court complex in the capital earlier on Tuesday.
According to reports, internet was shut down by authorities in several cities on Tuesday evening, and prohibitory orders issued to stop people from gathering on the streets.
Khan, who faces several corruption and terrorism charges filed after his ouster last year, was arrested by Pakistan Rangers when he was in the Islamabad High Court for pre-arrest bail.
Online videos recorded with mobile phones showed security agents in black uniforms dragging Khan and shoving him into a police vehicle car before whisking him away.
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 project trust in the eastern Punjab province.
The arrest may escalate the volatile political situation in Pakistan.
PTI tweeted several video clips showing angry protesters clashing with police, flashing Khan’s posters, waving party flags, and shouting anti-government slogans.
In one of the videos, police fired dozens of tear gas shells at a slogan-shouting crowd.
The opposition party called on the people to come out “to save Pakistan” from the government that has “crossed the red line.”
Khan had driven to Islamabad earlier from his residence in the nearby city of Lahore to face charges in multiple graft cases.
Among the cases, Khan is accused of illegally selling state gifts from foreign dignitaries and failing to declare them to the electoral commission among his assets.
Khan claims the cases 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 shot at by a shooter in an assassination attempt that killed a supporter and wounded 13 during a rally last November.
The former prime minister has insisted that the country’s military spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was plotting to kill him, without giving any evidence.
In a statement on Monday, the military had denounced Khan for “fabricated and malicious allegations.”