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Tuesday 26 September 2023 Dublin: 13°C
KM Chaudhry/PA Images Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan was arrested on Tuesday
# Protests
Pakistan’s Supreme Court orders release of former PM Imran Khan
Supporters of the ex-cricketer were seen dancing near the court building to celebrate his release.

LAST UPDATE | May 11th 2023, 3:20 PM

PAKISTAN’S SUPREME COURT has ordered the release of former prime minister Imran Khan, two days after his arrest sparked countrywide violence.

Supreme Court chief justice Umar Ata Bandial also asked Khan to issue an appeal to his supporters to remain peaceful, as the country faced growing turmoil.

Supporters of Khan were seen dancing near the court building to celebrate his release.

After being ousted from power in a no-confidence vote by lawmakers, Khan was faced with multiple corruption charges in Pakistani courts.

Pakistani authorities have cracked down on his supporters since Tuesday, detaining hundreds in overnight raids and sending troops across the country to rein in violence.

Clashes with police have killed at least eight of his supporters and dozens have been injured.

Five of the deaths were reported in north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, two in the eastern city of Lahore and one person was killed in the south-western city of Quetta.

More than 200 police officers were also injured. The demonstrators burned down a railway station on the outskirts of the capital, Islamabad, last night.

Police said today that nearly 1,600 of Khan’s supporters were arrested overnight on charges of damaging public property and attacking military installations.

In one incident — hours after Khan’s arrest — a mob set fire to the sprawling residence of a top army commander in the eastern city of Lahore. Some 2,000 of the ex-cricketer’s supporters were arrested earlier yesterday and Tuesday.

Khan was dragged from a courtroom in Islamabad where he showed up to face corruption charges on Tuesday.

He is being held at a police compound in Islamabad where, at a temporary court set up there, a judge yesterday ordered the 70-year-old opposition leader to be detained for at least another eight days, raising the prospect of more unrest.

embedded485de48e4c2f41eda25f8cc2abd9f66d Muhammad Sajjad / PA Images People look at a car burnt in yesterday's clashes between police and Khan’s supporters Muhammad Sajjad / PA Images / PA Images

Also today, police filed new terrorism charges against Khan and top leaders from his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party on charges of inciting mobs to violence.

They said the mobs attacked military installations, damaged public property, burned down dozens of police vehicles, attacked police officers and disrupted life by blocking key roads and highways.

In an address to the nation last night, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif — who took over after Khan was ousted in April last year in a no-confidence vote in Parliament — said the unrest by the followers of the former premier had “damaged sensitive public and private property”, forcing him to deploy the military in Islamabad, the most populous province of Punjab and in volatile regions of the north west.

“Such scenes were never seen by the people of Pakistan,” Sharif said, following a Cabinet meeting. “Even patients were taken out of ambulances and ambulances were set on fire.”

Sharif called the attacks “unforgivable,” and warned that those involved in violence would be given exemplary punishment. He said Khan was arrested because of his involvement in corruption, and that there was evidence available to back up these charges.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is the late Benazir Bhutto’s son, urged Khan’s followers today to end the violence but stressed that peaceful protests are their right.

“What has happened, has happened. Don’t make things more difficult for yourself,” he said.

Following the violence, the government has shut down schools, colleges and universities in the eastern Punjab and north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, where Khan has a massive grassroots following and from where most of the violence was reported after his arrest.

The government also suspended internet service in various parts of the country.

The government blames Khan and senior leaders from his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party for inciting people to violence, which continued today in Punjab and in the north west.

Yesterday, the court in Islamabad decided that the National Accountability Bureau can hold Khan in its custody for eight days for questioning over a corruption case.

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