Imran Khan to face anti-graft tribunal after arrest prompts violent protests

Pakistan’s former prime minister, Imran Khan, is set to appear in an anti-corruption court on Wednesday as police step up security across the country, a day after violent protests over the arrest of an opposition leader.

Khan, who was detained Tuesday night, will attend a hearing inside police headquarters in Islamabad, police said in a statement. Government investigators are expected to seek detention for 14 days, the legal maximum.

Authorities in three of Pakistan’s four provinces issued emergency orders to public gatherings after riots erupted Tuesday after Khan’s Tehrik-e-Insaf party called for nationwide protests. issued. Two people were killed and several others injured in Lahore when a mob set fire to the gate of a military general’s home, the party said.

Officials from Pakistan’s main telecommunications regulator said internet services and digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube were blocked in parts of the country. Local media reported that police in Islamabad have been ordered to carry firearms while on duty and exams at schools and universities have been suspended.

Khan, a former cricket star and the country’s most popular politician, served as prime minister from 2018 until he was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament last April.

His party is the frontrunner to win the October elections, but he faces a barrage of legal challenges that could disqualify him from running. These include allegations of illegally selling gifts he received while prime minister and terrorism charges linked to protests by his supporters.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaura told reporters Tuesday’s arrest by anti-corruption forces was related to a land purchase by a charitable trust controlled by Mr Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi.

Khan, 70, has dismissed the charges as politically motivated and says his dismissal was the result of a Western-backed conspiracy. He has launched a campaign of Snap polls across the country, fueling political tensions at a time when the country is in deep economic turmoil.

Analysts said the government of Prime Minister Shebaz Sharif, which is struggling to revive a $7 billion IMF bailout, is resisting early polls for fear of a major public backlash.

In March, supporters clashed with police in front of his home in Lahore after threats of arrest, and in November he was shot in the leg at a political rally in Wazirabad, Punjab, which he said was an assassination attempt. claims. by senior officials.

He reiterated the allegations at a weekend rally, drawing fierce denials from the military.

Key business figures have warned that the recent turmoil could delay negotiations with the IMF. The fund is seeking further reforms before dispersing the next $1.1 billion tranche of aid programs that could pave the way for additional financing that could help Pakistan avert a balance of payments crisis. The country’s foreign exchange reserves have shrunk to just about a month’s worth of imports, leading to shortages of essential goods.

“Under the current circumstances, can it be safely said that anyone looking at Pakistan is lending money to a country that can run its affairs smoothly?” said one businessman, who requested anonymity. “The ongoing uncertainty must end.”

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