• Army called out in Punjab, KP, Islamabad
• Asad Umar, Fawad among over 1,900 party supporters held; 52 sent to Adiala
• Radio Pakistan building torched in Peshawar; railways track damaged in Tarnol
• Police property in Lahore, Islamabad destroyed; FC fort in Lower Dir ransacked
ISLAMABAD / PESHAWAR: At least eight people were killed, as many as 290 were injured, and over 1,900 enraged protesters were rounded up in running battles with law enforcers across the country on Wednesday, as an accountability court in Islamabad handed over the custody of their leader Imran Khan to NAB for eight days in connection with the Al Qadir Trust case.
The violent protests provoked by the PTI chairman’s arrest entered the second day on Wednesday, as police and PTI supporters engaged in bloody clashes throughout the day that resulted in damage to several government installations, including police stations.
Late in night, PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry was arrested hours after central Secretary General Asad Umar taken into custody.
In a bid to control the worsening situation, the government called in the military in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Islamabad. The deployment came a day after protesters stormed the residence of the corps commander in Lahore and tore down a gate of GHQ in Rawalpindi.
The attacks on army property prompted a harsh statement from its media wing, with its spokesperson calling out the ‘hypocrisy’ of a political group that used the public for its “limited and selfish” interests.
Nevertheless, a police office in Islamabad, a police station in Lahore, Radio Pakistan’s building in Peshawar, and Scouts Fort in Chakkdara, Lower Dir, were set on fire by the mob.
As his supporters rallied for him outside Police Lines in Islamabad, an accountability court was temporarily moved to the police headquarters which handed over the custody of Mr Khan to the NAB officials for interrogation.
The media persons were not allowed to witness the proceedings of the case. According to officials, NAB sought 14-day remand of the former premier, but the court agreed to grant eight-day physical remand.
NAB will interrogate Mr Khan in the sub-jail as it took his custody from the accountability court. According to NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi, the NAB chairman can designate the said guest house as sub-jail to detain Mr Khan. He said that under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), the chairman can designate any place to detain suspects.
Mr Khan was arrested on the high court’s premises and taken to the NAB Rawalpindi office in G-6 on Tuesday.
The IHC chief justice on the petition of Mr Khan held that the arrest was not per se illegal but he questioned the manner in which the former prime minister was taken into custody. The court has also commenced contempt proceeding against the secretary of interior and the IG Islamabad.
In the case, NAB alleged that Khan’s PTI government struck a deal with Malik Riaz that caused a loss of more than $239m to the national exchequer, in a quid pro quid arrangement with the real estate mogul.
No let-up in protests
In Islamabad and Rawalpindi, protests continued throughout the day. A number of protesters gathered at various locations in the federal capital and Rawalpindi to protest the arrest of their party chief.
In Islamabad, more than 17 law enforcers were injured in clashes with protesters whereas the mob set on fire the office of the SP Industrial Area and damaged Ramna police station. The protesters also uprooted a railways track in Tarnol as well.
The Islamabad police registered a number of cases against PTI supporters and detained more than 200 party supporters in the federal capital. In Rawalpindi, the police booked more than 1,500 PTI supporters and detained over 190 workers – 52 were sent to Adiala Jail after they were produced in an anti-terrorism court.
In Lahore, the mob besieged Shadman police station and damaged furniture and official vehicles. The situation in Punjab, particularly Lahore, remained tense in light of violent clashes between police and PTI workers.
A group of PTI supporters attempted to storm the Governor House and CM Secretariat, but they were pushed back by the police. At least 25 government vehicles were burnt while 14 government buildings were stormed by them, according to the police.
Meanwhile, the police claimed to have arrested over 1380 protesters across the province in a crackdown on the former ruling party. The reports claimed that nearly 150 police personnel, including Lahore DIG Operation Nasir Rizvi, three SPs, and dozens of SHOs, were injured in the clashes that erupted with the PTI workers/activists.
In Gujranwala, unknown persons started firing in a protest as a result of which Rashid, son of Maqsood, was killed and several people were injured late on Monday night.
In Lahore, a murder case was registered against the top leadership of the PTI, including Imran Khan, and more than 1200 people at the Gulberg police station. The case was registered in connection with arson at Askari Tower wherein a person reportedly died in the fire.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, violent scenes were abundant, with protesters burning down the building that housed offices of Radio Pakistan and the Associated Press of Pakistan near the KP Assembly.
Peshawar witnessed pitched battles between the police and protesters who were trying to force their way to Khyber Road where key installations were located. The violence in the province left at least seven dead and more than 122 injured.
The police also arrested 274 persons across the province in connection with the violent protests.
Three people were killed and 81 others were injured in clashes in the provincial capital while two others were killed in Kohat. Another protester died and 11 more were injured in Chakkdara where protesters stormed an FC fort late on Tuesday.
Sindh remained relatively peaceful, as Karachi police scuttled a PTI protest. At least 20 people were arrested in the provincial capital in addition to several arrests in Mirpur Khas. In Balochistan, police arrested over 60 local leaders and party workers in Quetta and Chaman a day after violent demonstrations in the provincial capital.
The PTI provincial leadership and important leaders went into hiding to avoid arrests. Police teams conducted raids on the residence of Qasim Suri, but he was not present at home. However, police arrested his brother Bilal Suri.
Police also raided the house of ex-PTI governor Zahoor Agha and arrested his two brothers as he was not found at his residence. No protests were witnessed in the provincial capital against the arrest of PTI Chairman Imran Khan However, people staged a demonstration in Chaman and Qila Saifullah.
Saleem Shahid in Quetta, Munawer Azeem in Islamabad, Mohammad Asghar in Rawalpindi, Imran Ayub in Karachi, and Asif Chaudhry in Lahore also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2023