PESHAWAR: Black smoke billows from a street installation set alight during a protest by PTI activists against the arrest of party chief Imran Khan, on Tuesday.—AFP
PESHAWAR: Black smoke billows from a street installation set alight during a protest by PTI activists against the arrest of party chief Imran Khan, on Tuesday.—AFP

• IHC declares arrest ‘within parameters’, initiates contempt proceedings against interior secretary, IG
• Protesters storm corps commander’s house in Lahore; one death reported from Quetta
• Internet services disrupted
• PTI condemns arrest from court premises

ISLAMABAD / LAHORE: The arrest of PTI Chairman Imran Khan on the premises of the Islam­abad judicial complex by a contingent of Rangers in connection with a corruption case set off a ser­ies of violent protests across the country, including in the high-security zones where PTI supporters and the law enforcers faced off.

The detention which the Islamabad High Court (IHC) said was made within parameters, came hours after the PTI chairman upped the ante by claiming that he could prove his allegations that an intelligence officer was behind the assassination attempt on him.

The arrest triggered claims and counter-claims by the government and the opposition PTI, with the former defending it while the latter condemning the action.

Soon after the arrest, Section 144 was imposed in Islamabad and some other places to control the law and order situation while exams in some cities were postponed in light of violent protests which continued into the night.

Twitter and some other social media services were also suspended on the instructions of the interior ministry. Some protesters took out their wrath on the military, storming the residence of the corps commander in Lahore and laying siege to a gate of the army’s General Headquar­ters in Rawalpindi.

Police fired teargas and water cannon to disperse Mr Khan’s sup­p­orters in Karachi and Lahore, while protesters blocked roads in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Pesha­war, Faisalabad, Multan, Quetta, etc.

Contempt proceedings

The way Mr Khan was arrested also prompted the Islamabad High Court to initiate contempt proceedings against the interior secretary and the police chief of Islamabad for mishandling the arrest, though it agreed the detention was made within the parameters.

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq issued contempt notices to both these officials and directed the registrar’s office to get a case registered over the ransacking of the court premises.

After an inquiry by the registrar, responsibility will be fixed in the case and a senior officer would be appointed to register an FIR in this regard. Further hearing was adjourned till May 16.

Imran arrested

In a surprise move, Rangers detained Imran Khan from the high court in an operation that lasted barely three minutes and whisked him away in a black vehicle.

The PTI chief was scheduled to appear before the IHC chief justice in connection with his petitions seeking to quash FIRs registered against him at the Ramna police station for inciting mutiny and with the Secretariat police over violence outside the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Mr Khan also appeared before an anti-terrorism court and the judge confirmed his bail in seven different cases.

In addition, Mr Khan sought pre-arrest interim bail from the IHC in a National Acco­un­tability Bureau (NAB) investigation on charges of corruption in the Al-Qadir University Trust case.

Mr Khan was required to conduct biometric verification at the diary branch of the IHC, but the Rangers contingent arrested him in the same case while he was completing this process.

In its case, NAB alleged that the PTI government struck a deal with Malik Riaz that caused a loss of more than $239m to the national exchequer, in a quid pro quo arrangement with the real estate businessman. In December 2019, Britain’s National Crime Agency had accepted a settlement offer of £190m, which included a UK property — 1 Hyde Park Place, London, W2 2LH.

It was valued approximately at £50m and all of the funds landed in the frozen accounts of Malik Riaz. Later, former prime minister Imran Khan and his wife were accused of accepting billions in cash and hundreds of kanals of land from Bahria Town in return for the help that Mr Khan’s government extended to Malik Riaz during the NCA investigation against him.

IHC proceedings over arrest

The arrest created a wave of unrest among the PTI lawyers present in the IHC to welcome Imran Khan. Chief Justice Aamer Far­ooq took up the matter and summoned the secretary of the interior, the Islamabad police chief, and the additional attorney general.

During the hearing, Barrister Gohar Ali Khan and advocate Ali Bukhari, who accompanied Mr Khan, recalled the events leading up to the arrest of their client.

Barrister Gohar told the court that Mr Khan was sitting in the diary branch to complete the verification process when some officials of Rangers appeared all of a sudden and tried to enter the office. However, when they found that the door was locked, they broke the windows and used pepper spray to discourage resistance.

Barrister Gohar stated that one of the personnel struck Mr Khan on the head and another kicked his injured leg. He said that the officials then dragged PTI chairman from the said office to shift him into their vehicle.

Advocate Bukhari said that he was with Mr Khan in the ATC and then came with him to the IHC. He further said that Mr Khan’s movement was also being monitored through a drone.

Mr Bukhari told the court that after the Rangers used pepper spray, he could not see what happened and he also got injured in this incident. According to him, the Rangers smashed the windows and hurled abuses at Mr Khan.

‘Against dignity of court’

 Security officials detain Imran Khan outside the IHC.—PPI
Security officials detain Imran Khan outside the IHC.—PPI

During the hearing, IHC Chief Justice observed that this matter is against the dignity and independence of the court, and anything beyond set parameters will not be tolerated and any person whether a minister or prime minister if found responsible will be taken to the task.

Advocate Khawaja Haris Ahmed argued that Mr Khan learnt that the inquiry in Al Qadir Trust was upgraded into an investigation on April 30 through a newspaper. He asserted that Mr Khan was seeking pre-arrest bail and also filed a petition before the IHC.

He argued that the investigation agencies show restraint in such situations and they keep waiting for the court’s orders but in this case, Mr Khan was arrested while he was resorting to legal course.

Additional attorney general Munawar Iqbal Duggal told the court that since the arrest has been made, the counsel could approach the accountability court to redress grievances.

“This is not simple as such,” remarked Justice Farooq. He then summoned director general and prosecutor general of NAB and adjourned the hearing.

When the hearing was resumed, NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi told the court that the bureau asked the federal government for Mr Khan’s arrest after serving him repeated call-up notices.

Inspector General Akbar Nasir Khan told the court that during the incident, some police officials also got injured. He denied having prior information regarding the arrest of Mr Khan but assured the court that he could probe the matter.

Violent protests

In Rawalpindi and Islamabad, violent confrontations between the police and PTI supporters were witnessed followed by a crackdown on party supporters. In Rawalpindi, sensitive installations, including GHQ and Hamza Camp (Ojhri Camp), were targeted by the PTI supporters.

Two police officials –Waris Khan DSP Tahir Sikandar and Ratta Amral SHO Chaudhry Riaz were also injured in an altercation with the PTI workers.

The metro bus service was also suspended between the two cities.

In Lahore, the PTI workers gathered at Liberty Chowk and started marching towards the Cantonment. The announcements were made on social media sites to reach the Cantonment to protest outside the military corps commander’s house.

In footage circulating on different social media platforms, the PTI workers carrying clubs and party flags reached the corps commander’s house in the Cantonment area.

The protestors forced their way into the house while chanting slogans against the arrest of their chairman. They were also seen breaking the windowpanes, TV, and furniture of the house and also setting the trees and furniture on fire.

In another video, the PTI activists could also be seen pelting stones and bottles at an army convoy on Mall Road. The workers also set police vehicles outside Fortress Stadium Lahore on fire in addition to several security posts in the Cantt.

Sindh

In Karachi, hundreds of PTI workers took to the street in different parts of the province against the arrest of party chairman Imran Khan prompting action from the police resulting in the arrest of Ali Zaidi, a couple of MPAs, and dozens of opposition party workers.

Sharea Faisal turned into a battleground hardly an hour after the arrest of Mr Khan when PTI Karachi chapter president Aftab Siddiqi urged the workers to reach Insaf House – the party headquarters. As the workers marched on Sharea Faisal suspending traffic on the key road link, the police resorted to baton-charge and teargas shelling which attracted a strong reaction from the protests. In a three-hour-long face-off between police and the protesters, over a dozen vehicles, including a police van, and two check posts each of the Karachi police and Pakistan Rangers were set on fire.

In KP, after learning about the arrest of the PTI chief, scores of the opposition party’s workers reached the Hashtnagar Chowk in Peshawar blocking the Grand Trunk Road.

The protesters torched the replica of the Chaghi Mountain, where Pakistan conducted its first nuclear test in 1998. They also smashed the main gate of the provincial assembly’s building and threw stones inside the premises.

In Quetta, one person was killed and over a dozen injured, including six police personnel were injured in clashes between workers in clashes between the protesting PTI workers and police during a demonstration against the arrest of Imran Khan.

In Gilgit-Baltistan, protesters blocked many roads, including Karakoram Highway, at various points, leaving a number of travellers stranded.

Mohammad Asghar in Rawalpindi, Manzoor Ali in Peshawar, Saleem Shahid in Quetta, Imran Ayub in Karachi, and Ikram Junaidi in Islamabad also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2023

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