Pakistani former Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested by paramilitary forces on Tuesday.
The former leader was arrested during a court appearance in Islamabad on anti-graft charges.
“Imran Khan has been arrested in the Qadir Trust case,” the Islamabad police said on Twitter.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah told reporters that Khan was arrested by Pakistan’s anti-corruption body, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), after he failed to appear before a tribunal “despite notices.”
NAB issued arrest warrants for Khan on May 1, accusing him of “corruption and corrupt practices.”
In a pre-recorded video released by party officials, Khan said “by the time these words reach you I would have been in jail under an illegal charge.”
It appeared late Tuesday that Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were blocked across Pakistan, according to internet monitoring company Netblocks.
How did Khan’s party react?
Officials from Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf political party urged supporters to take to the streets and “shut down Pakistan” in protest.
“People of Pakistan, this is the time to save your country. You won’t get any other chance,” the party said on Twitter.
However, police have vowed to strictly enforce an order banning gatherings of more than four people.
Khan’s close aide, former information minister Fawad Chaudhry, denounced the arrest as a “kidnapping.”
Footage broadcast on national television showed Khan being manhandled by several paramilitary rangers and taken away in an armored car.
“As we reached the biometric room of the court to mark attendance. dozens of security guards attacked us,” Ali Bukhari, a party lawyer, said to the AFP news agency. “They beat him and dragged him out.”
A clash also broke out between Khan’s supporters and the police outside the court. Some of Khan’s lawyers and supporters were injured, Chaudhry said.
Khan’s party has filed a complaint in court, seeking a police report explaining the charges against Khan.
Protests broke out after Khan’s arrest
Protests erupted in Pakistani cities, with Khan’s supporters blocking roads in the capital Islamabad, Peshawar and other cities.
Some stormed the residence of the corps commander in Lahore, while others attacked a gate of the army headquarters in the garrison town of Rawalpindi.
The political crisis in Pakistan
Khan was ousted by a vote of no confidence in April 2022. He claimed that his ouster was illegal and part of a Western conspiracy.
Khan campaigned against the government of his successor Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and demanded early elections.
The conflict between the two politicians has intensified amid the country’s worst economic crisis in decades. Khan’s supporters clashed with the police several times.
In recent days, Khan has accused a senior intelligence officer, Major-General Faisal Naseer, of being involved in an assassination attempt last year in which he was shot in the leg. The military said these comments were “fabricated” and “unacceptable.”
Anonymous officials from NAB told the Associated Press that Khan will be brought before the anti-graft tribunal later on Tuesday.
Khan has had almost 100 cases registered against him since he was ousted – a tactic analysts say successive governments have used to silence their opponents in a country where the military has an inappropriate influence.
In most cases, he faces obstruction of public office if convicted.
rm, zc/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)