Imran Khan’s supporters storm Pak Army headquarters, chant slogans against establishment
Lahore/Islamabad/Karachi: In unprecedented scenes, supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan on Tuesday stormed the Pakistan Army headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi and the Corps Commander’s residence in Lahore after his dramatic arrest in a corruption case.
Khan, who travelled from Lahore to the federal capital Islamabad, was undergoing a biometric process at the Islamabad High Court when the paramilitary Rangers broke open the glass window and arrested him after beating lawyers and Khan’s security staff.
The arrest of the 70-year-old Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman comes a day after the powerful army accused him of levelling baseless allegations against a senior officer of the spy agency ISI.
As the news of his arrest by the Rangers spread, massive protests broke out in several cities across Pakistan. Protesters at several places turned violent and burned police vehicles and damaged public property.
The Rangers, which operate under the Interior Ministry, are usually commanded by officers on secondment from the army.
For the first time, Khan’s supporters smashed the main gate of the army’s sprawling headquarters in Rawalpindi, where troops exercised restraint. The protesters chanted slogans against the establishment.
In Lahore, a large number of PTI workers stormed into the Corps Commander Lahore residence and smashed the gate and window-panes. The army personnel present on duty there, however, did not try to stop the enraged protesters who surrounded them and chanted slogans against the ‘handlers’ of the PML-N led government in the military establishment. The protesters held a demonstration in the Cantonment area.
Lahore was virtually cut off from the rest of the province because of the protest on main roads including the entry and exit points.
The caretaker Punjab government called the Rangers to control the law-and-order situation in the most populous province and imposed section 144 under which not more than five people can gather at one point.
According to the Home Department, the ban on gatherings will remain in place for two days.
The Punjab government also requested the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to suspend Internet and mobile services in the areas of the province where violent protests took place.
Violent protests also spread to Karachi and Hyderabad in Sindh province and Balochistan’s Quetta where PTI protesters assembled outside Army cantonment areas.
A spokesman of the Civil Hospital in Quetta, Wasim Baig, confirmed they had received the body of a man with gunshot wounds.
“The dead body was brought from the airport road where protests have been taking place since afternoon,” he said, adding that several protesters and policemen with injuries were also brought to the hospital.
People confirmed that internet and mobile services had been blocked by authorities as PTI workers and leaders took to social media to spread the protests.
In Karachi, protesters blocked both sides of the main Shahrah-e-Faisal road which remained closed to traffic as police resorted to heavy tear gas shelling and baton charge in which people from both sides were injured.
“The people are coming onto the streets by themselves as the party leadership had made it clear arresting our chairman would be crossing the red line,” PTI leader Alamgir Aurangzeb said.
Senior PTI leaders including Members of the National Assembly and Members of the Provincial Assembly were present at the protests. Not only the Shahrah-e-Faisal but violent protests and clashes with police have also been reported from at least six to seven different areas of Karachi including Sohrab Goth which connects the city to upcountry and rural areas.
Protesters have blocked the roads and set police barricades on fire. Angry protesters also broke windows and damaged public transport buses and set on fire a water board vehicle in Golimar area.
The significant presence of PTI women supporters was visible at the protests in Karachi and Hyderabad where protesters threw away police barricades and set them on fire.
“We are not living in the 70s or 90s Pakistan. Until our leader is released and dates for general elections are announced we will carry on protesting anywhere at any time as the people have had enough now,” Zehra Mashidi, a protester on Shahrah e Faisal, said.
Police arrested the President of PTI in Sindh and former minister Ali Zaidi and other local leaders and took them to unknown locations.
Murad Saeed, a senior PTI leader, tweeted that people should continue their protests.
A senior police official confirmed that the situation in Karachi was getting bad as more and more people including women and senior citizens were joining protests in different areas.
In Peshawar, Khan’s supporters set a monument of the Chaghi Mountain inside the premises of the Peshawar Radio Station on fire. The Chaghi mountain model was set up in the commemoration of Pakistan becoming a nuclear power in 1998.
The Peshawar cantonment and roads leading to Corps Headquarters and house of Corps Commander in Peshawar were sealed.
A large number of PTI workers also pelted stones at the residence of Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah in Faisalabad city. Similarly, protests were held in Multan, Jhang, Gujranwala, Sheikhupura, Kasur, Khanewal, Vehari, Gujranwala, Hafizabad and Gujrat cities.