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Top court orders former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s presence in court amid political turmoil

May 11, 2023 at 1:35 pm

Pakistani police use teargas shells against the supporters of Former Prime Minister Imran Khan and political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) during a protest held against the arrest of their leader Imran Khan, in Peshawar, Pakistan on May 09, 2023 [Hussain Ali – Anadolu Agency]

Pakistan’s top court, on Thursday, ordered the authorities to produce the country’s former Prime Minister, Imran Khan, before the Court within an hour, Anadolu News Agency reports.

The order comes after Khan was arrested from Islamabad High Court premises on Tuesday, triggering nationwide protests.

A three-judge Supreme Court bench, led by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, which heard a petition seeking the release of the ex-premier, passed the order after an hours-long hearing, local broadcaster, Samaa News, reported.

The top judge questioned: “What dignity remains of the court if 90 people entered its premises? How can any individual be arrested from court premises?”

More arrests were made on Thursday, two days after Pakistan’s main opposition leader, Imran Khan, was arrested in a corruption case.

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Army troops were deployed on the streets of the capital, Islamabad, in a sign of heightened tensions in the South Asia nation.

The top leadership of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-E-Insaaf (PTI) party was also arrested, including the country’s former Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, former Finance Minister, Asad Umar and former Information Minister, Fawad Chaudhry.

Gilgit Baltistan Chief Minister put under house arrest

Pakistani authorities, Thursday, placed the Chief Minister of Gilgit Baltistan under house arrest in the capital, Islamabad, local media said.

Khalid Khurshid, who arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday, was staying at Gilgit Baltistan House in Islamabad.

According to local broadcaster, Dunya News, the Islamabad administration detained Khurshid in the official guest house in the capital and deployed police outside to prevent him from going outside the premises.

The PTI strongly condemned his detention.

The PTI urged its workers to come out in droves to protest on the streets against what it termed “tyranny”.

“Our dear Pakistanis, you must understand that if we don’t stand against this tyranny now it will be impossible in the future. Come out today,” PTI tweeted from its official account.

The party claimed that 47 workers were killed in protests across the country on Wednesday and 2,000 others were arrested, but Anadolu could not independently verify the figures.

Hospital sources confirmed seven people were killed and over 100 wounded, while over 1,200 were arrested across the country.

Army, police and paramilitary troops were also deployed in the cities of Peshawar, Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan and Mardan, with the government imposing colonial-era restrictions on the gathering of more than five people.

Interior Minister, Rana Sanaullah, warned of a “zero tolerance” approach for those who take the law into their hands.

“There will be zero tolerance for those who take the law in their hands, we will not tolerate. We have directed the security forces to deal with the miscreants with an iron fist,” Sanaullah tweeted.

READ: Protests break out against arrest of Pakistan ex-Premier

The government has also suspended mobile internet and blocked social media platforms across the country, with schools remaining shut in many parts of the country.

PTI responds to army accusations

Khan’s PTI strongly reacted to a military statement, saying it is “contradicting the facts”.

“ISPR’s (military media wing) statement is contradicting the facts and is based on hatred and revenge against the most reliable, popular and largest party of Pakistan,” the PTI said in a statement late Wednesday night.

The Pakistani army had said it had shown “maturity” and “restraint” in response to attacks on military installations, following the ex-premier’s arrest.

“We are fully aware that a few miscreant party (Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-E-Insaf – PTI) leaders were behind this conspiracy, which aimed to compel the army to react,” the military said in a rare statement on Wednesday.

It warned that any further attack on the state installations will no longer be tolerated.

 READ: TIMELINE – From ouster to arrest: Key dates in Imran Khan saga in Pakistan

Allegations against Khan

Khan was arrested on Tuesday and taken into custody by the country’s paramilitary troops, Rangers, from the Islamabad High Court where he was attending the hearing of his bail application as, according to Khan, the government has filed over 120 cases against him during the last one year.

He was arrested by the country’s anti-corruption agency, the National Accountability Bureau, in connection with alleged corruption involving the Al Qadir University Trust.

It is alleged that the cricketer-turned-politician and his wife, Bushra Bibi, received billions of rupees and a large piece of costly land to build the educational institution in return for releasing an amount of £190 million ($239 million) to a property tycoon in 2020.

The amount was identified and returned to the country by the UK’s National Crime Agency, following a settlement with real estate tycoon, Malik Riaz, in 2019.

The National Accountability Bureau, Pakistan’s anti-corruption body, alleges that Khan’s PTI government struck a deal with Riaz that caused a loss of more than $239 million to the national exchequer, in a quid pro quo arrangement with the businessman.

Khan and his party leaders, however, deny the allegations.

Khan, who served as Prime Minister of Pakistan from 2018-2022, lost a vote of confidence in Parliament last April, one year short of completing his term.

In November, he survived an assassination attempt during a rally.

Since then, Khan has fallen out with the country’s powerful army, and is facing a plethora of cases, which his supporters say are politically motivated.

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