Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan will appear on Wednesday to answer corruption charges in a special court at the capital’s police headquarters, a day after his sudden arrest sparked violent nationwide protests.
Khan’s detention comes after months of political crisis and a reprimand by the powerful military after the former international cricketer alleged that a senior official was involved in a plot to kill him.
Some protesters took their anger out on the army, torching the corps commander’s residence in Lahore and laying siege to the army’s general headquarters in the army city of Rawalpindi.
In Peshawar, a mob vandalized the Chaghi Memorial – a mountain-shaped statue honoring the site of Pakistan’s first nuclear test.
Police fought for hours with supporters of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in cities across the country on Tuesday night.
Local media reported two deaths in those clashes.
The atmosphere seemed to have cooled down on Wednesday morning, but heavy security was in place across the capital, especially outside the so-called police line where the special court would be convened.
Authorities also ordered the closure of schools across the country, and continued to restrict access to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
“At a time when we are already struggling to feed our children, further uncertainty has arisen,” van driver Farooq Bhatti told AFP in Rawalpindi on Wednesday morning.
“Violence will do no one any good…everyone will be affected…but I doubt the decision-makers care.”
PTI vice-chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi urged supporters to continue protesting in a “legal and peaceful manner”, adding that the party’s lawyers would file several appeals and petitions against Khan’s arrest.
The charge that led to Khan’s action on Tuesday was brought by the country’s top anti-corruption body, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which said he had repeatedly ignored summons to appear in court.
Khan has faced dozens of charges since being ousted from power in April – a strategy analysts say Pakistan’s successive governments have used to silence their opponents.
If found guilty, he could be barred from holding public office, which would rule him out of elections due later this year.
Khan’s arrest came a day after the army warned him against making “baseless allegations” when he again accused a senior officer of plotting to kill him.
The reprimand late Monday underscored how far Khan’s relations have deteriorated with the military, which supported his rise to power in 2018 but withdrew its support ahead of a parliamentary vote of no confidence, which He was evicted last year.
Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center, said, “The senior army leadership is not interested in bridging the rift between itself and Khan.”
“So with this arrest it is likely to send a message that the gloves are too far away.”
The reaction from abroad was swift.
“The United States wants to make sure that whatever happens in Pakistan is consistent with the rule of law, with the Constitution,” Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken said during a press conference with British Foreign Secretary James Cleverley in Washington on Tuesday. Be consistent.”
Cleverly added, “We want to see a peaceful democracy in that country.”
With Pakistan deeply mired in economic and political crisis, Khan has pressed the struggling coalition government to call for early elections.
He has become increasingly outspoken against the establishment, relying on near-fanatic support from the huge crowds that accompany his public appearances to protect him from arrest.
But during a routine court appearance on Tuesday, the officers created a ruckus.
Khan, who has an apparent limp since being shot during an assassination attempt last year, was escorted by dozens of paramilitary Rangers in an armored car inside the Islamabad High Court compound.
At a weekend rally in Lahore, Khan claimed that senior intelligence officer Major-General Faisal Naseer was involved in an assassination attempt last year, during which he was shot in the leg.
The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) wing of the Army said in a statement that “this fabricated and malicious allegation is extremely unfortunate, condemnable and unacceptable”.
The government says the assassination attempt was the work of a lone gunman, who is now in custody and who controversially confessed in a video leaked to the media.
Pakistan’s military, the sixth largest in the world, holds undue influence over the nation.
It has staged at least three coups and ruled for more than three decades since the country gained independence in 1947.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)