ISLAMABAD/LAHORE, May 9 (PTI): Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested by paramilitary rangers on Tuesday while he was present at the Islamabad High Court for the hearing of a corruption case, a day after he took on the country’s powerful army for allegedly hatching a plot to kill him.
The arrest of the 70-year-old former cricketer-turned-politician comes a day after the powerful army accused Khan of levelling baseless allegations against a senior officer of the spy agency ISI.
The chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), who travelled from Lahore to the federal capital Islamabad, was undergoing a biometric process at the court when the Rangers broke open the glass window and arrested him after beating lawyers and Khan’s security staff, according to senior party leader Shireen Mazari.
TV footage showed the Rangers grabbing Khan from the collar and bundling him into a prison van. The Rangers, which operate under the Interior Ministry, are usually commanded by officers on secondment from the army.
“Khan has been arrested in a land transfer case to property tycoon Malik Riaz and is being handed over to National Accountability Bureau (NAB)”, a NAB official confirmed to PTI.
He said that Khan has been arrested in the Al-Qadir Trust case which is about the setting up of Al-Qadir University for Sufism in 2019 Sohawa area of Jhelum district of Punjab.
“His arrest warrants were issued today morning and subsequently he is arrested,” he said.
Khan’s arrest warrant, however, showed that it was issued on May 1. The warrant said that Khan was accused of corruption and corrupt practice.
Interior minister Rana Sanaullah said that Khan failed to appear before the court despite being issued several notices. “The arrest has been conducted by the National Accountability Bureau for causing losses to the national treasury,” he tweeted.
He added that Khan was not tortured.
In a pre-recorded video issued by the party after his arrest, Khan said, “till the time these words of mine reach you, I will be arrested in a baseless case. This shows that fundamental rights and democracy in Pakistan have been buried.”
“All this is being done because they want me to accept the corrupt, imported government that has been forcefully imposed on us,” Khan said.
He said if someone has a warrant, they should directly bring it to me. “Bring the warrant, my lawyer will be there. I’m ready to go to jail myself,” Khan said.
His arrest came a day after the powerful Pakistan Army on Monday slammed Khan for “highly irresponsible and baseless” allegations by him against a serving ISI officer without any evidence.
“We ask the political leader concerned to make recourse to legal avenues and stop making false allegations. The institution reserves the right to take legal course of action against patently false and malafide statements and propaganda,” the army said, directly referring to Khan.
Islamabad police released a brief statement quoting inspector general (IG) Akbar Nasir Khan as saying that Khan had been arrested in relation to the case which concerns allegations that Bahria Town allotted land worth Rs 530 million to Al-Qadir Trust, owned by the PTI chairman and his wife Bushra Bibi.
The police chief also said that the situation in Islamabad was “normal”. He added that Section 144 had been imposed in the federal capital and action would be taken against violators.
Khan’s supporters have started protests in various cities against his arrest. The party workers started converging at the Insaf House, PTI main office, in Karachi, in Peshawar and Lahore. There were also reports of workers seen on the roads of Rawalpindi and Islamabad as well.
It was said that Khan was shifted to NAB office in Rawalpindi where a medical checkup was carried out. However, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry claimed that Khan was shifted to an unknown location.
“What laws? Courts attacked by Rangers as if invading an occupied land – lawyers & IHC staff also beaten. This is Pakistan today – a fascist State where the High Court has been attacked by paramilitary forces,” former minister Mazari said.
The party alleged that Khan was being tortured but it was not confirmed independently.
Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court ordered the Islamabad police chief and others to appear before the court and explain why Khan was arrested from the court.
IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq said that he was showing “restraint” and warned that he would “summon” the prime minister if the Islamabad police chief did not appear before the court.
“Come to court and tell us why Imran has been arrested and in which case,” justice Farooq said.
Later, the IG Islamabad appeared and told the court that Khan was arrested by NAB and also presented a copy of his arrest warrant.
Quoting barrister Gohar Khan, who was at the court during Khan’s arrest, Dawn newspaper said the former prime minister was “tortured”.
“They hit Imran’s head and leg…his wheelchair was also tossed aside during the arrest,” Gohar was quoted as saying by the paper.
Former minister and senior PTI leader Hammad Azhar said that Khan’s arrest was “not acceptable” and asserted that the party chief “is our red line”. He called on the nation to take to the streets against Khan’s arrest.
PTI secretary general Asad Umar tweeted that a six-member committee, headed by PTI vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, would determine the next course of action.
Khan has been facing a slew of cases since his ouster through a no trust vote in April last year. He has rejected all these cases as political victimisation by the ruling alliance.
Currently, Khan has said he is facing over 140 cases related to terrorism, blasphemy, murder, violence, inciting to violence.