Karachi (Reuters) – Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif ordered authorities on Saturday to identify and arrest all those involved in violent acts after former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s arrest this week sparked deadly unrest.
Khan departed the court premises late Friday night and headed towards his hometown Lahore amidst high security, after a court granted him bail. His arrest in a land fraud case on Tuesday, which the Supreme Court ruled “invalid and unlawful” on Thursday, sparked violent protests by his supporters.
They stormed military establishments, set ablaze a state broadcaster building, smashed buses, ransacked a top army official’s house and attacked other assets, leading to nearly 2,000 arrests and the army being deployed in multiple cities.
At least eight people were killed in the violence, a spasm of unrest in a country that is facing economic crisis, with record inflation, anaemic growth and delayed IMF funding.
Khan, who was expected to address his followers virtually later on Saturday, on Friday welcomed the court’s bail order and said the judiciary was Pakistan’s only protection against the “law of the jungle”.
“I must say I expected this from our judiciary, because the only hope now left – the only thin line between a banana republic and a democracy is the judiciary,” he told journalists inside the court premises.
Khan, 70, is a cricket star-turned-politician who was ousted as prime minister in April 2022 in a parliamentary no-confidence vote and who is Pakistan’s most popular leader according to opinion polls.
Many cities in Pakistan saw violent protests following his arrest by the anti-graft agency. Khan denies any wrongdoing.
Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were inaccessible in Pakistan on Saturday after having been restored late on Friday, Reuters journalists said.
The Ministry of Interior had instructed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to suspend mobile broadband services across the country and blocked access to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter on Tuesday night