Pakistan deploys army after Imran Khan's arrest
The Pakistani military has been deployed amid a series of violent protests over the arrest of ex-prime minister Imran Khan earlier this week, with at least eight people killed in the unrest and around 1,000 now in police custody.
The armed forces were called in to face down rowdy demonstrators on Wednesday after Khan was indicted on a fresh round of corruption charges. His arrest one day prior drew outrage from Khan’s supporters, with crowds gathering in Islamabad and other cities to block roads, clash with police and even assault law enforcement and military facilities.
“Such scenes were never seen by the people of Pakistan,” Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said in a televised address, adding that he deployed troops to several regions after rioters “damaged sensitive public and private property.”
Sharif went on to describe attacks on ambulances and emergency workers, saying such acts were “unforgivable” and that those responsible would face harsh penalties.
According to police sources cited by the BBC, eight people have died in the clashes so far, while 1,000 have been arrested, the bulk of them in the eastern Punjab province. The army was sent to the region after 157 police officers were injured in clashes there, local officials said.
Photos captured by the Associated Press showed some of the unrest in progress, with protesters seen hurling objects at police and lighting fires in the streets.
The military later issued its own statement warning that the ongoing chaos was pushing Pakistan toward “civil war,” also saying “strict action” would be taken against anyone behind attacks on military sites.
Khan’s dramatic arrest on Tuesday took place as he faced another set of corruption allegations in an Islamabad court, with armed agents from the National Accountability Bureau storming the building to take him into custody. The 70-year-old politician was removed from power last year following a no-confidence vote and has since been indicted on a litany of charges, including “terrorism.” He is now awaiting his next hearing in a police compound in the Pakistani capital, where a court recently ordered him to be held for another eight days.