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Imran Khan: Pakistan arrests former prime minister over corruption cases

Arrest comes day after warning from military against 'baseless accusations' from the former cricket star
Supporters of Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan, carry placards displaying a portrait of Khan during a protest in Karachi on March 19, 2023, demanding release of arrested party workers in recent police clashes (AFP)
Supporters of Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan demand the release of arrested party workers in a protest in Karachi, 19 March 2023 (AFP)

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested during a court appearance in the capital Islamabad on Tuesday over dozens of outstanding corruption allegations.

"Imran Khan has been arrested in the Qadir Trust case," the official Islamabad police Twitter account said, in reference to a corruption case.

Officials from Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party urged their followers to rally in support of the former cricket star, who was ousted in a parliamentary vote of no confidence last year.

However, police warned that an order prohibiting gatherings of more than four people would be strictly enforced and local TV stations showed chaotic scenes outside the court as hundreds of Khan's supporters clashed with the police.

Khan's arrest comes a day after the military warned him against making "baseless allegations" after he again accused a senior officer of plotting to kill him.

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The rebuke late Monday underscored how far Khan's relations have deteriorated with the powerful military, which backed his rise to power in 2018, but withdrew its support ahead of a parliamentary vote of no confidence that ousted him last year.

Pakistan is deeply mired in an economic and political crisis, with Khan pressuring the struggling coalition government for early elections.

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At a weekend rally in Lahore, Khan repeated claims that a senior intelligence officer Major-General Faisal Naseer was involved in an assassination attempt last year during which he was shot in the leg.

The military's Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) wing said in a statement that "this fabricated and malicious allegation is 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," it said.

Criticism of the military establishment is rare in Pakistan, where army chiefs hold significant influence over domestic politics and foreign policy, and have long been accused of interfering in the rise and fall of governments.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif - whom Khan also alleged was involved in the assassination plot - weighed in on Twitter.

"His levelling 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.

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