Global Courant 2023-05-14 07:40:00
LAHORE — Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday called for nationwide “freedom protests” after his brief arrest and detention last week sparked deadly unrest.
The former cricket superstar – who has been embroiled in dozens of court cases since his ouster last April – was released on bail on Friday after his detention was declared illegal by the Supreme Court.
Enraged by the arrest, supporters set fire to government buildings, blocked roads and damaged military property, which they blame for Khan’s downfall.
“Freedom doesn’t come easily. You have to grab it. You have to sacrifice for it,” he said in a speech broadcast on YouTube on Saturday night.
He called on his supporters to stage protests across the country on Sunday “at the end of your streets and villages”, and announced that he would campaign again for immediate elections on Wednesday.
Pakistani party leader Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has been campaigning against the army for months now.
His arrest on Tuesday came just hours after he was reprimanded for alleging senior officials were involved in an assassination attempt against him last year.
Pakistan’s powerful military has ruled the country directly for nearly half of its 75-year history and continues to wield power over the political system.
“The actions of the army chief have made our army bad. It’s because of him, not me,” Khan said from his home in Lahore, though it was unclear whether he meant the serving chief or his predecessor, who has blamed Khan for his ouster.
He previously told reporters that “one man, the army chief” was behind his arrest.
But Khan distanced himself from the attacks on the military installations during the protests, denying involvement of his party associates and calling for an independent investigation into the violence.
The army, which denies Khan’s allegations, warned on Saturday of attempts to create “misconceptions” against the institution.
According to the police and hospitals, at least nine people were killed in the unrest last week.
Authorities said hundreds of police officers were injured and more than 4,000 people were detained, mostly in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
At least 10 senior PTI leaders have been arrested since the protests began, one of Khan’s lawyers said.