Pakistan’s anti-corruption agency arrested former Prime Minister Imran Khan at Islamabad High Court on Tuesday, threatening fresh turmoil in the nuclear-armed country as Khan supporters took to the streets in protest and clashed with police.
Watch: Videos shared by former Pakistan Prime Minister #ImranKhan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (#PTI) party shows a member of his legal team being treated for injuries he reportedly obtained during a scuffle with police, as well as police breaking through windows at the court. pic.twitter.com/UNLlCRCjdv— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) May 9, 2023
Khan’s arrest comes a day after the powerful military rebuked him for repeatedly accusing a senior military officer of trying to engineer his assassination and the former armed forces chief of being behind his removal from power last year.
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Dozens of paramilitary troops in riot-control gear surrounded Khan - Pakistan’s most popular leader according to opinion polls - and led him into a black van by his arm.
Authorities in three of Pakistan’s four provinces imposed an emergency order banning all gatherings after Khan’s supporters clashed with police, blocked major roads in a string of cities and stormed military buildings in Lahore and Rawalpindi, according to witnesses and videos shared by his party.
Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the videos. The military’s public relations wing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pakistan’s telecommunications watchdog told Reuters that mobile data services were being suspended on interior ministry orders, while Netblocks, a global internet monitor, said access to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube had been restricted.
Khan, 70, a cricket hero-turned-politician, has showed no sign of slowing down since being ousted in April 2022 as prime minister in a parliamentary no-confidence vote - even after being wounded in a November attack on his convoy as he led a protest march to Islamabad calling for snap general elections.
His arrest came at a time when Pakistanis are reeling from the worst economic crisis in decades, with record high inflation and anemic growth. An International Monetary Fund bailout package has been delayed for months even though foreign exchange reserves are barely enough to cover a month’s imports.
Alleged property fraud
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah told reporters that Khan had been arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) after he ignored notices to turn himself in.
He said Khan and his wife were accused of having received, when he was still prime minister, land worth up to 7 billion rupees ($24.7 million) from a property developer who had been charged in Britain with money laundering.
Sanaullah added that British authorities had returned 190 million pounds ($240 million) to Pakistan in connection with money laundering, but that Khan had returned the money to the developer instead of keeping it in the national exchequer.
“Khan is accused of commission of the offense of corruption and corrupt practices,” NAB said in a statement.
Khan has denied any wrongdoing.
GEO TV said he would be brought before an anti-corruption court on Wednesday.
The graft case is one of more than 100 registered against Khan since his ouster after four years in power. In most of the cases, Khan faces being barred from holding public office if convicted, with a national election scheduled for November.