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Pakistan calls in army to quell riots over Imran Khan arrest

May 11, 2023

Pakistan's government called in the army to help end deadly unrest in the wake of the arrest of the former prime minister. Violence has spread across Pakistani cities since his arrest.

A supporter of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan throws a stone towards police officers after they set fire to a pile of tires during clashes, in Islamabad, Pakistan
Shootings and arson have been reported in multiple cities accross PakistanImage: AP Photo/picture alliance

Pakistan's government called in the military on Wednesday to help restore order in the capital city of Islamabad and in two provinces in the wake of violence following the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Khan was remanded in custody for eight days on fresh corruption charges on Wednesday following his arrest on Tuesday.

At least five people died during clashes between police and protesters in demonstrations over Khan's arrest.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said the unrest by Khan's supporters "damaged sensitive public and private property," forcing him to deploy the military in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

The military warned any further assaults on the military or law enforcement agencies, state installations and properties "will be met with severe retaliation."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wanted all parties in Pakistan to refrain from violence and stressed the need to respect the right to peaceful assembly.

Guterres had also urged Pakistani authorities to "respect due process and the rule of law in proceedings" against Khan.

Pakistan: outrage at arrest of ex-PM Imran Khan

Khan's legal woes

Khan, who was ousted in a no-confidence vote last year by Sharif, is being held at a police compound in Islamabad.

A judge ordered the 70-year-old politician detained for at east another eight days, raising the prospect of more unrest.

He was indicted on claims that he unlawfully sold state gifts while in office from 2018 to 2022.

Tuesday's arrest was based on a new warrant for a separate corruption case.

Lawyers for Khan said the National Accountability Bureau, which ordered Khan's arrest, asked the judge to remand him in custody for at least 10 days.

Pakistan ex-PM Khan remanded in custody

The hearings came a day after his arrest prompted a wave of violent protest across the country with police announcing that they had arrested hundreds of his supporters.  At least two provinces have asked Pakistan's federal government to deploy troops to restore order.

Pakistan's government insisted that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party had planned the unrest, with Khan's supporters attacking important state buildings and damaging private and public vehicles.

Police arrested Fawad Chaudhry, Khan's deputy and vice president of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, outside the Supreme Court in Islamabad on Wednesday.

Chaudhry, an outspoken government critic, had insisted that he had been granted legal protection from arrest, and the police did not specify the charges.

What are the allegations about gifts?

The "Toshakhana" gift-selling case is one of several legal battles that the former international cricket star and his populist center-right party are facing. It hinges on a government department known as the Toshakhana, which refers to Mughal-era treasure houses kept by royal rulers to store and display gifts bestowed on them.

Although government officials have to declare all gifts, they are allowed to keep those below a certain value and, in some cases, they can buy back more expensive presents at a discount.

Khan and his wife received lavish gifts worth millions during foreign trips, including luxury watches, jewelry, designer handbags, and perfumes. The former prime minister is alleged to have failed to declare some of the presents, or the profit made from selling them.

The Election Commission of Pakistan has already barred Khan from holding public office until the next election because of the claims that he sold the presents. Successive governments in Pakistan have previously targeted political opponents by filing legal cases against them to keep them away from politics. Khan and his supporters claim the proceedings are politically motivated.

Khan — ousted in a no-confidence vote in April last year — has attempted to disrupt Pakistan's politics since he was toppled, ordering all lawmakers from his PTI to give up their seats in the National Assembly.

lo,rc/sms, jsi (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)

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