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Protests in Pakistan after ex-prime minister’s arrest

He will not have escaped this last attempt at arrest. The former Pakistani prime minister was arrested on Tuesday while appearing in a court in Islamabad to face corruption charges. This arrest provoked demonstrations across the country, which were suppressed in particular by tear gas. Imran Khan, who wants to return to power, has been the target of dozens of court cases since his ousting last year and has so far managed to thwart various arrest attempts.

“As we arrived in the biometric control room of the court to take attendance, dozens of rangers attacked us,” Ali Bukhari, a lawyer for Imran Khan’s PTI party, told AFP. “They beat him and dragged him out,” he added. “My Pakistanis, by the time these words reach you, I will have been arrested in connection with an illegitimate affair,” said Imran Khan, who had anticipated his detention, in a pre-recorded video. “Basic rights in Pakistan, the rights given to us by our constitution and our democracy have been buried,” he added.

Assassination attempt

His arrest comes the day after the army warned against “unfounded allegations” made according to it by the former Prime Minister. At a weekend rally in Lahore, Imran Khan again claimed that Major General Faisal Naseer, a senior intelligence officer, was involved in his assassination attempt in early November 2022. Prime Minister had been shot in the leg during this meeting.

“These fabricated and malicious allegations are extremely unfortunate, deplorable and unacceptable,” the Army’s Interservice Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement. “This has been a consistent trend since last year. Military and intelligence officials are the target of innuendo and raucous propaganda aimed at promoting political goals,” he lamented. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, whom Imran Khan also accused of being involved in the assassination plot, also condemned the charges. “His allegations without any evidence against General Faisal Naseer and the officers of our intelligence agency cannot be allowed and will not be tolerated,” he tweeted.

Damaged relationships

The army warning illustrates how badly relations between Imran Khan and the country’s powerful military have deteriorated. She had first supported him in his accession to power in 2018 before withdrawing his support, then Imran Khan had been ousted from office by a vote of no confidence in parliament in April 2022. Since then, the politician has been lobbying on the fragile coalition government to hold early elections before October.

Imran Khan has been the target of dozens of court cases since his ouster, a tactic used by various Pakistani governments to silence their opponents, analysts say. Pakistan’s powerful military wields immense influence in the country and has staged at least three coups since independence in 1947, ruling for more than thirty years.

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