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'Imran Khan is Binding Force Who Must be Released', Ex-Minister Says

© AP Photo / K.M. ChaudaryFormer Prime Minister Imran Khan leaves after appearing in a court, in Lahore, Pakistan, Friday, March 24, 2023.
Former Prime Minister Imran Khan leaves after appearing in a court, in Lahore, Pakistan, Friday, March 24, 2023. - Sputnik India, 1920, 10.05.2023
Islamabad Police confirmed on Tuesday that Imran Khan had been arrested, as videos emerged of the ex-premier being dragged away by security forces when he came to Islamabad's high court.
Members of the opposition Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party are rallying around their leader Imran Khan after he was arrested in the Al-Qadir Trust case on Tuesday.
Khan is accused of looting Rs 50 billion (over $175 mln) from the national treasury while prime minister in 2019.
The former cricketer has called such allegations baseless and a ploy to arrest him. His arrest has been met with outcry from people across all major cities in the country.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party activists and supporters of former Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran clash with police amid teargas during a protest against the arrest of their leader, in Peshawar on May 9, 2023. - Sputnik India, 1920, 09.05.2023
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Pakistan on Fire: PTI Supporters Clash With Police After Imran Khan's Arrest
In Islamabad and Lahore, where the residence of the ex-premier is located, PTI workers clashed with police and set vehicles on fire. They also barged into the Corps Commanders House in Lahore setting it on fire. Many people were seen gathering outside the Army Headquarters and hurling stones at it.
Islamabad authorities imposed a curfew in the area, police said on Twitter, while warning of strict action against "anti-social elements" who violate the order.
Sardar Muhammad Asif Nakai, a former provincial minister of excise taxation and narcotics control, as well as a senior PTI member, spoke to Sputnik to give clarity on the PTI's stance following its leader's arrest.
"This is totally unlawful and undemocratic. We as a nation strongly condemn it and peaceful protests will continue until and unless Imran Khan, who is the only national leader and binding force of Pakistan is released," Asif Nakai said.
The former minister's sentiment was shared by political observer Dr. Rashid who told Sputnik that Khan is the heart of PTI and without him the party will not have the same strength.

"After Khan's removal, in case of a long-term jail sentence or worse, obviously the PTI party will not be the same and the unity will be shattered. If he is removed from the leadership of his party, PTI will not have that strength and with a passage of time the party will become weak and will not perform as well in the elections as it can right now," Rashid said.

Talking to Sputnik about why the arrest took place, Dr. Rashid shared his opinion saying that the establishment wanted to convey a message to the Supreme Court.

"Today's episode of Khan's arrest has achieved two things for the government and the establishment. First is the fact that the court's sanctity has been hurt - Islamabad High Court's Chief Justice's office was attacked by the police, from where they literally dragged Khan out after breaking the windows," the observer said, adding that "the move is absolutely unconstitutional and unlawful."

Pakistan's national flag flies half-mast at the country's Supreme Court to mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth II, in Islamabad on September 12, 2022. - Sputnik India, 1920, 04.04.2023
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"With this gesture they are conveying a message to the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan who after May 14 was likely to take an action against some big names in the government for contempt of court, because the government is not announcing elections on May 14 as was ordered by the Supreme Court. Hence, this move today was done to pressurize the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and to show him that they are not afraid to barge into the courts."

The observer also expressed his concern for Khan's wellbeing saying that his arrest is a part of a plan to disqualify him before the elections take place in Pakistan. "Now we can see that he has been arrested and I fear that his life may be in danger," Dr. Rashid stated.

Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center took to Twitter to share a similar opinion to Dr. Rashid's, saying, "The timing of the arrest is striking. The senior army leadership is uninterested in repairing the rift between itself and Khan, and so with this arrest it's likely sending a message that the gloves are very much off."

Just before his arrest, PTI party officials released a pre-recorded video by Khan in which he urged supporters to come out in support of "true freedom".