Call to 'shut down' Pakistan as ex-PM Imran Khan 'dragged out' for arrest

Imran Khan was detained by paramilitary personnel in Islamabad, as Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo reports

Violence has broken out after Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan was dragged out of court and arrested, after appearing in the capital city to face multiple corruption cases.

Fawad Chaudhry, a senior official with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, said the 71-year-old was arrested in Islamabad on Tuesday by agents from the country's anti-corruption body, the National Accountability Bureau.

Later on Tuesday, the PTI called on supporters to "shut down Pakistan", tweeting: "It’s your time, people of Pakistan.

"Khan has always stood for you, now its time to stand for him."

As news of the arrest spread, around 4,000 of Mr Khan’s supporters stormed the official residence of the top regional commander in Lahore, smashing windows and doors, and staging a sit-in as troops retreated to avoid violence.

The protesters also burned police vehicles and blocked key roads.

Protesters also smashed the main gate of the army’s headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, where troops exercised restraint.

Hundreds of demonstrators shouted pro-Khan slogans as they moved toward the sprawling building.

Supporters of Imran Khan block an entry gate of the Pakistani army's headquarters during a protest in Rawalpindi. Credit: AP

Mr Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote in April last year, which he has claimed was illegal and a western conspiracy.

He has since demanded early elections and campaigned against the government of his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

The military has directly ruled Pakistan for more than half of the 75 years since the country gained independence from British colonial rule, and wields considerable power over civilian governments.

Mr Sharif, whose government faces spiralling economic woes and is struggling to recover from last year’s devastating floods that killed hundreds and caused billions of pounds in damage, slammed Mr Khan for criticising the military.

“Let this be abundantly clear that you, as former prime minister, currently on trial for corruption, are claiming legitimacy to overturn the legal and political system," Mr Sharif tweeted after Mr Khan's arrest.

In a statement, the European Union urged “restraint and cool headedness” in the country, through dialogue and the rule of law.

Footage obtained by Imran Khan's party appears to show him being taken away by a crowd of officers

Mr Chaudhry, denouncing the arrest as “an abduction”, said Mr Khan was dragged out of the court, into a police vehicle and is now in the custody of the security forces.

The arrest drew nationwide condemnation from supporters of the popular opposition leader.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Mr Khan's supporters started gathering in the city of Lahore, chanting anti-government slogans.

The arrest is “blatant interference in the judicial affairs by the powers-that-be," Raoof Hasan, another leader from Mr Khan's party, told Al Jazeera English television. "We are completely in the dark. He was virtually abducted from the court of law.”

An image appearing to show plainclothes police officers beating a supporter of Imran Khan. Credit: AP

In the port city of Karachi, police swung batons and fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of Khan supporters who had blocked a key road.

Police were also trying to disperse demonstrators in Lahore, who briefly blocked key roads there as they rallied, mostly peacefully, against Khan's arrest.

The London branch of the PTI called for protests outside the Pakistan High Commission in the capital on Tuesday afternoon, with a small group forming a demonstration in Lowndes Square.

Pakistan’s independent GEO TV broadcast images of ex-cricketer-turned-politician Mr Khan being pulled by security forces towards an armoured vehicle, which took him away.

Pakistan's riot police officers stand guard next to an armored vehicle outside the court in Islamabad. Credit: AP

After Mr Khan was taken away, a scuffle broke out between his supporters and police outside the court.

Mr Chaudhry said some of Mr Khan’s lawyers and supporters were injured, as were several policemen.

Mr Khan's party immediately complained to the Islamabad High Court, which requested a police report explaining the charges for his arrest.

“Imran Khan has been arrested because he was being sought in a graft case,” Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan told a news conference.

Demonstrations have broken out in Pakistan following Imran Khan's arrest. Credit: AP

He claimed Mr Khan had caused millions of dollars in losses to the country's treasury by illegally purchasing lands from a business tycoon while in office.

Officials from the anti-corruption body said it had issued arrest warrants for Mr Khan last week in a separate graft case, for which he had not obtained bail - something that would protect him from arrest under the country's laws.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he will be brought to appear before an anti-graft tribunal later on Tuesday.

He had been in the capital Islamabad on Tuesday facing charges of illegally selling state gifts he had received during his term as premier and concealing his assets.

Protesters block a road in Peshawar, Pakistan, angered by Imran Khan's arrest. Credit: AP

Last month, Mr Khan told ITV News said he believes his life is under threat from his own government - though he gave no evidence.

"The government through the Interior Ministry has issued a warning that my life is under threat," he said.

"But they say it is under threat from some 'foreign agencies' - now I am clear who I am under threat from.

"It's the same people who tried to assassinate me, the people who are sitting in the government right now."

Imran Khan told ITV News in April that he believed the government may make an attempt on his life

On November 3 last year, Mr Khan was shot in the leg in what was widely labelled as an assassination attempt.

A gunman opened fire on a campaign truck carrying Mr Khan in the Wazirabad district in the eastern Punjab province, wounding him slightly along with some of his supporters, a senior leader from his party and police said.

The gunman was immediately arrested, and police later released a video of him in custody, allegedly saying he had acted alone.

On Monday, the military in a strongly worded statement criticised Mr Khan of “fabricated and malicious allegations” of its involvement in the November shooting, saying they are “extremely unfortunate, deplorable and unacceptable.”

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