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Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, was arrested on Tuesday by paramilitary forces as the popular leader faces terrorism and corruption-related charges and remains outspoken against the country’s military and political leadership.
Khan, a former cricket player, was ousted from his role as prime minister in April 2022 by a no-confidence vote in parliament after being accused of corruption and violating the constitution. Khan survived a shooting in November and has claimed that corrupt officials coordinated his removal from office.
In a tweet before his arrest, Khan said that Pakistan’s military and political opponents in the Pakistan Democratic Movement Party were trying to arrest him to “prevent me from campaigning” and to “prevent me from mobilising the masses for street movement in support of Constitution.”
After his arrest, he was taken to the National Accountability Bureau for questioning, according to police. Supporters took to the streets in protest, starting fires and clashing with police.
Khan’s arrest came as he was set to go before the Islamabad High Court over mutiny and attempted murder cases, according to Dawn, an English-language Pakistani newspaper. Since his removal last year, Khan has been in court battles over whether he would be able to run for office and has faced allegations of corruption.
He has also led the charge for earlier elections throughout Pakistan, as his populist political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has gained public support in the aftermath of Khan’s ouster.
Just before he was arrested, Khan, 71, had said that an intelligence officer was trying to kill him. “This man tried to kill me twice and whenever an investigation is carried out, I will prove that it was this man and there is a whole gang with him,” he said.
“If someone has a warrant, come to me directly … I am prepared to go to jail,” he added. “Do us a favor and don’t stage such a drama and directly provide a warrant.”
The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing for Pakistan’s Armed Forces, called Khan’s claims “irresponsible and baseless” as well as “extremely unfortunate, deplorable and unacceptable.”
“This has been a consistent pattern for the last year wherein military and intelligence agencies officials are targeted with insinuations and sensational propaganda for the furtherance of political objectives,” the statement continued.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also condemned Khan’s comments, saying they wouldn’t be “tolerated.”
“Imran Niazi’s act of routinely maligning and threatening Pakistan Army and Intelligence Agency for the sake of petty political gains is highly condemnable. His leveling of allegations without any proof against Gen Faisal Naseer and officers of our Intelligence Agency cannot be allowed and will not be tolerated,” he said.