Pakistani police arrest prominent Imran Khan supporter

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Pakistani police arrested Monday a retired army general and prominent supporter of former Prime Minister Imran Khan on charges of inciting the public and government employees against national institutions, officials said.

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The charge against retired Gen. Amjad Shoaib, which carries a seven-year sentence, came after he appeared on Pakistani BOL news channel on Saturday criticizing authorities for keeping Khan’s supporters jailed, especially in remote areas of the country.

They were arrested amid Khan’s latest campaign dubbed “fill the jail cells” with detainees — or “jail bharo” in Urdu — as a way to pressure the government into holding early elections.

Last Wednesday in the former premier’s hometown of Lahore and some other urban areas, Khan’s supporters protested, hopped into police vans and posed for cameras, taunting police to arrest them en masse and defying a ban on rallies.

Police mostly stayed back but at least 200 Khan supporters were arrested in different places in eastern Punjab province and elsewhere, at the request of Khan’s supporters themselves.

In his TV appearance, Shoaib allegedly urged civil servants to refuse to do their duties. The charge against him claims Shoaib’s remarks were part of a “planned conspiracy” to weaken the country. Shoaib does not hold any office in Khan’s party.

Fawad Chaudhry, a senior leader from Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf opposition party, condemned the arrest of the 80-year-old Shoaib, saying such actions would “bring nothing but more hatred and anxiety.”

Shahbaz Sharif replaced Khan as prime minister after the former cricket star turned politician was ousted in a no-confidence in Parliament in April 2022.

Since then, Khan — who has claimed his ouster was a conspiracy by Sharif and Washington — has been seeking early elections. Washington and Sharif have denied Khan’s claims and Sharif has rejected calls for early elections, saying the vote would be held as planned later this year.

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