Pakistan’s leader says those involved in violence after Khan’s arrest will face terrorism trials

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s prime minister said on Saturday that authorities would go after those involved in violent protests following the detention of his predecessor, Imran Khan, including prosecution in anti-terrorism courts. .

Shahbaz Sharif’s warnings signaled a further escalation in the long-running conflict between the government and Khan, who has the support of large numbers of supporters.

Khan returned to his home in the eastern city of Lahore early Saturday, after a court agreed to protect him from arrest for two weeks. The 70-year-old former cricket star, who was installed in parliament a year ago, delivered a speech from his home later on Saturday.

The recent chain of events began on Tuesday when Khan was dragged out of a courtroom and arrested in the capital Islamabad. He was detained by violent protests by his supporters, who torched cars and buildings, including military bases. Hundreds were subsequently arrested.

Khan was released on Friday, but a long list of about 100 lawsuits, on charges ranging from violence to corruption, still stands against him. Khan said on Friday that authorities only allowed him to travel when he threatened to tell the public that he was being held there against his will.

Sharif on Saturday vowed to go after those involved in the fire at the residence of the army chief in Lahore.

“The guilty include the planners, the opposition and the attackers” face trial in anti-terrorism courts, he told officials in Lahore. Sharif ordered the Ministry of Law to increase the number of anti-terror courts to speed up the trials.

Khan has been in opposition to the government that replaced him and has said that the charges against him are politically motivated. Sharif insists that there is a “real case of corruption” against Khan, “but the judge has become a stone wall protecting him.” “

On the day of Khan’s arrest, protests were held in several places across the country where there was also violence. In the garrison town of Rawalpindi, baton protesters broke into the main gate of the army general headquarters.

Also, in the northwestern city of Peshawar, protesters protested the construction of the national broadcaster Radio Pakistan, which also housed the offices of the state news wire Associated Press of Pakistan.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said on Saturday that armed attackers were involved in the attacks on military bases and government buildings, rejecting the depiction of the events as spontaneous protests.

Khan has a wide support base around Pakistan. He presents himself as an outsider victimized by the military and political elites who have long run the country. At the same time, the opposition calls him a corrupt demagogue who moves his followers to violence.

In his speech on Saturday, Khan denied that his party was responsible for the violent incidents that took place after his arrest. He asked the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to investigate, alleging that “unknown persons” had joined the protesters and caused damage. He did not provide any proof to support the claim.

“I have never allowed my party workers to engage in mafia-like tactics and I have always encouraged them to adopt the constitutional course while calling for fresh elections ,” he said.

Mainstream television channels aired Khan’s address despite a court order ending a recent ban by Pakistan’s media watchdog on his speeches. Saturday’s speech was broadcast on the YouTube channel of Khan’s party, Tehreek-e-Insaf.

Khan asked his supporters to hold rallies in their neighborhoods on Sunday from 5:30 to 6:30 pm and announced that public rallies would begin on Wednesday in Lahore.

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