Protests erupted across Pakistan on Tuesday after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan was arrested as he appeared before the Islamabad High Court for several cases pending since he was ousted last year.
Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse Khan supporters in Karachi, Lahore, and Faisalabad, while protesters blocked roads in the capital Islamabad, Peshawar, and other cities, Pakistan media reported.
The workers also damaged public property and set police vehicles on fire in Charsadda, Karachi, Lahore, and several other cities after the party called on supporters to “shut down Pakistan” over his arrest. PTI wrote on Twitter: “It’s your time, people of Pakistan. Khan has always stood for you, now its time to stand for him.”
Previous attempts to arrest Khan from his Lahore home resulted in heavy clashes between his supporters and law enforcement personnel.
“Imran Khan is our red line. Even a scratch on him is not acceptable,” Hanif Khan, 42, a grocery store owner told AFP.
“We will sacrifice our lives, but we will free Imran Khan.”
Khan faces dozens of charges since being ousted — tactic analysts say successive Pakistan governments have used to silence their opponents.
He could be barred from holding public office if convicted, which would exclude him from elections scheduled for later this year.
Video broadcast on local TV channels showed Khan — who has had a pronounced limp since being shot during an assassination attempt last year — being manhandled by dozens of Rangers into an armoured car inside the IHC premises.
In a statement, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said a meeting of the central leadership and members of the emergency committee formed by the party chief has been convened to mull future course of action in view of the arrest.
The future course of action will be announced after assessing the situation, he added.
PTI leaders Saifullah Niazi, Azam Swati, Ijaz Chaudhary, Murad Saeed, Ali Amin Gandapur, and Qureshi are part of the emergency committee.
Qureshi also condemned the “attack” on the IHC and the alleged torture of the party chief during the arrest. He slammed the law enforcers for taking Khan into custody during biometric verification and storming the court.
The senior party leader said the party would continue to fight a legal and political war with full determination.