Police arrest 1,000 as Imran Khan appears before special court in Islamabad

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The former prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan can be held for eight days, a court ruled on Wednesday, a day after the popular opposition leader was dragged from a courtroom and arrested on corruption charges.

Mr Khan’s arrest on Tuesday set off violent clashes involving his supporters and police in several cities, including Islamabad, that left at least six people dead.

Following a cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif denounced the attacks on public property and military installations, and he approved the deployment of troops in the capital of Islamabad, in the country’s most populous province of Punjab, and in the volatile northwest, according to a government statement.

In the latest unrest, thousands of protesters stormed a radio station and offices of the state-run agency in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Following the PM’s declaration, military forces were mobilised and more than 1,000 protesters arrested during unrest across the country.

The Radio Pakistan building burns in Peshawar (EPA)
The Radio Pakistan building burns in Peshawar (EPA)

Mr Khan, 70, the former all-rounder and captain of the Pakistan cricket team, was ousted in a no-confidence vote last year but remains the country’s most popular opposition figure.

He says the cases against him – which include corruption and terrorism charges – are a politically motivated plot by his successor, Mr Sharif.

His supporters clashed with police in several cities, including Quetta, Karachi, Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Lahore. Dawn reported that mobile internet services were restricted nationwide for several hours while Twitter, Whatsapp and Facebook continued to be blocked.

Schools, colleges and other higher educational institutions were also closed across Pakistan on Wednesday.

As protests raged, the tribunal turned Mr Khan over to the custody of Pakistan’s anti-corruption body, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), for eight days for further questioning, government adviser Ataullah Tarar said.

It follows a ruling by the country’s Election Commission that he illegally sold state gifts between 2018 and 2022. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The corruption case is one of more than 100 registered against Mr Khan after he left office. In most, he faces being barred from holding public office if convicted.

He was at Islamabad High Court on a separate matter on Tuesday when paramilitary officers stormed the building, smashing windows to gain access in dramatic scenes captured on video.

Mr Khan's legal team has challenged the arrest in an Islamabad court and is considering doing the same at the country's Supreme Court.

Imran Khan recovering from an assassination attempt last year (AP)
Imran Khan recovering from an assassination attempt last year (AP)

His supporters attacked the military’s headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi near the capital, but did not reach the main building housing the offices of army chief General Asim Munir.

Other demonstrators tried to reach the prime minister's residence in Lahore, but were driven off by baton-wielding police. Others attacked vehicles carrying troops and hit armed soldiers with sticks.

Police officers were deployed in force across the country, and placed shipping containers on a road leading to the sprawling police compound in Islamabad where Mr Khan was being held and where he appeared before a judge at the temporary court placed there for security reasons, according to the government.

Amnesty International said it was alarmed by reports of authorities blocking access to internet networks and social media. It urged authorities to show restraint, saying clashes between law enforcement and Mr Khan’s supporters risk human rights violations.

Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report