The toll in the violence since Tuesday night stands at eight, sources said.
The Islamabad district and sessions court drew up charges against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief in the Toshakhana case, pertaining to unlawful sale of state gifts during his term as PM. Imran’s arrest Tuesday was in the Al-Qadir Trust case, involving alleged kickbacks to him and his wife Bushra Bibi for helping a firm launder Rs 50 billion ($239m) from the UK through their trust.
The countrywide upheaval over the crackdown on Imran and his party singed government and army establishments in several cities, roiling the military establishment, which issued a statement late evening suggesting it had had enough of “organised attacks”. Islamabad’s Ramna police station was set ablaze and buildings of state-run Radio Pakistan and Associated Press of Pakistan in Peshawar were among those attacked.
“What the eternal enemy of the country could not achieve for the last 75 years, this group (PTI), disguised in a political cloak, has done just that for sheer lust of power,” the military’s media wing said.
Three of Pakistan’s four provinces – Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan – and the Islamabad administration urged the federal government to deploy the army on the streets to restore law and order.
In a late-night televised address to the nation, PM Shehbaz Sharif termed damaging public property “an act of terrorism”. He said Imran’s arrest was in accordance with law, unlike erstwhile federal ministers who would allegedly announce cases against political opponents during PTI’s stint in government and Imran would predict arrests.
“Not only political opponents, but family and relatives were not forgiven too,” the PM said.
He said the “real role” and responsibility of the political leadership was to not allow their workers to trespass legal boundaries. “As a political worker, we can’t express happiness on any arrest. This is indeed a bitter moment of life through which we have passed,” he said.
Earlier in the day, PTI general secretary Asad Omar, ex-foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and former Punjab governor Omar Cheema were arrested along with dozens of PTI workers and leaders from Karachi, Hyderabad, Multan, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and other cities. The emergency room of Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar reported receiving four bullet-riddled bodies, possibly killed in retaliation by security personnel. Around 27 more people were hospitalised with critical injuries.
In eastern Punjab province, officials said 157 police officers were injured in clashes with Imran’s supporters.
Schools, colleges and marketplaces remained shut across Pakistan amid an internet blackout, which the telecommunication authorities said would continue for an indefinite period.
Imran has been slapped with dozens of criminal cases since he was removed from office in April 2022 in a no-confidence vote in Parliament. He blames the military of being behind the move. Conviction in the Toshakhana case would disqualify him from contesting elections due in October.
Geo TV bulletins had footage showing Imran appearing before a judge in a temporary court inside a police compound Wednesday, news agency AP reported. The former was seen seated in a chair, holding a sheaf of documents.