Protests erupt across Pakistan against attempted arrest of former premier
Thousands of supporters of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan took to streets across the country Tuesday to protest the attempted arrest of their leader on a court order, according to officials and local media.
Share It :
Heavy contingents of police backed by water cannons and armored personnel carriers have besieged Khan’s residence in the northeastern city of Lahore, where they are facing tough resistance from hundreds of his supporters who have formed a human shield in an attempt to foil his arrest.
A joint police team from the capital Islamabad and city of Lahore arrived at Khan's residence after a district court issued a warrant for his arrest Monday after he failed to appear before the judge despite instructions from the Islamabad High Court in a case related to the illegal sale of gifts he received from foreign dignitaries when he was in power.
Waving tri-color flags of Khan's center-right Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and chanting anti-government slogans, the protesters blocked roads and staged sit-ins in Islamabad, the commercial capital Karachi and the garrison city of Rawalpindi as well as in other cities across the country including Lahore, Peshawar, Mardan, Charsadda and Faisalabad, local media outlets reported.
Northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan and is a PTI stomping ground, was the epicenter of the protests with road blockades set up and ties being burnt in several districts.
In Islamabad and adjoining Rawalpindi, protesters blocked the main Murree Road, suspending traffic between the twin cities.
Islamabad police said in a tweet that at least 15 protesters who were trying to block another main road in the capital were arrested.
In Lahore, the capital of northeastern Punjab province, hundreds of PTI supporters gathered at the city's central Liberty Chowk roundabout to protest against the siege of Khan's home and his possible arrest.
Infuriated protesters pelted police with stones while officers responded with heavy tear gas shelling and baton charges at different points in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. President ‘deeply saddened by today's events’
Police said at least five personnel, including a senior police officer, were injured by rock-throwing protesters outside Khan's residence.
They claimed that the protesters were pelting them with stones from the roof of Khan's residence.
President Arif Alvi, who belongs to the PTI, chided the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for its "poor priorities," adding that he is concerned about Khan's "safety and dignity."
"I am deeply saddened by today's events. Unhealthy revenge politics," he said in a Twitter post.
"Poor priorities of (the) government of a country that should focus on economic misery of the people. Are we destroying political landscape?"
"Am concerned about safety and dignity of @ImranKhanPTI like that of all politicians," he added.
Meanwhile, Ata Tarar, an special assistant to the prime minister, accused Khan and his supporters of "degrading" the judiciary and resorting to violence.
Addressing a news conference in Lahore, Tarar said that instead of inciting his supporters to violence, Khan should surrender to the law.
Khan, the country's only premier to be ousted through a no-confidence vote in Pakistan's 75-year political history, is facing a number of cases against him ranging from terrorism to attempted murder and money laundering.
Most of the cases, which Khan dubs a "sham," were lodged after his ouster.
Khan, 70, blames his unceremonious ouster on a US-backed conspiracy, an allegation that both the incumbent coalition government in Islamabad and Washington have repeatedly refuted.