Over 200 Imran Khan Supporters Arrested Since His Arrest

Lahore: More than 200 supporters of Imran Khan, including those who resisted the former prime minister’s arrest in a corruption case, have been arrested across Pakistan’s Punjab province, police announced on Tuesday.

Khan, 70, was arrested from his Zaman Park residence on Saturday shortly after an Islamabad trial court found him guilty of “corrupt practices” in the Toshakhana case and sentenced him to three years in jail. Khan, also the chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, is currently lodged in the Attock Jail in Punjab province.

According to Punjab police, more than 200 PTI party office-bearers and workers have been arrested from different parts of the province since Khan’s arrest.

The PTI, however, alleged that the police not only arrested its workers as they were protesting against Khan’s arrest but also raided the houses of its office bearers to take them into custody in Punjab province.

Over a dozen of Khan’s supporters have been booked under terrorism charges, police said.

According to the FIR, those present with the ex-premier, including his media team members, threatened the police team that came to arrest him on Saturday.

“They attacked and snatched the official guns from the policemen and pointed weapons at them and threatened to kill them. Police later overpowered and arrested them,” the FIR says.

Meanwhile, the Insaf Lawyers Forum (ILF), the lawyer’s wing of the PTI, held a demonstration outside the Lahore High Court both on Monday and Tuesday and chanted slogans against the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)-led coalition government and its backers –the military establishment– for sentencing their leader in a ‘fake case’.

ILF leader, Advocate Sardar Azeemullah Khan, said the country is heading towards anarchy and darkness.

“It seems the Constitution no longer exists, and there is no rule of law in Pakistan. The courts have failed to protect the Constitution and the rights of the people,” he said.

He said the Islamabad trial court judge Humayun Dilawar did not accept evidence from Khan’s lawyers and announced the decision in haste, leaving for the UK the same night.

Khan on Tuesday challenged his conviction in the Toshakhana corruption case, saying the verdict by a “biased” judge was a “slap in the face due process and fair trial” and “a gross travesty of justice”.

He has appealed his conviction and the three-year prison sentence by filing a plea through his lawyers – Khawaja Haris and Gohar Ali Khan – at the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

Khan has been lodged in the Attock jail, where he complained that he is kept in appalling conditions.

“He says the jail authorities have thrown some sweets in the cell to attract flies, making it difficult for him to sleep. Besides, he is not allowed food from home and Jai namaz (a piece of rug) to offer prayer, and also there is an open washroom,” said Khan’s lawyer Naeem Haider Panjotha, after a meeting with the former premier.

The cricketer-turned-politician has been accused of illegally selling state gifts for profit worth USD 497,500. Khan has denied wrongdoings, saying he legally bought the gifts from Toshakhana, a government-owned treasure house.

This is the second time in three months that Khan has been arrested.

Earlier, he was arrested on May 9 in Islamabad from the high court’s premises in the Al-Qadir Trust corruption case, sparking violent protests by his supporters.

Khan faces more than 140 cases across the country and charges like terrorism, violence, blasphemy, corruption and murder.

Sunil Kumar Dhangadamajhi

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