Police in Pakistan have arrested hundreds of supporters of ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan for violence after his arrest on corruption charges, authorities said on Wednesday, deepening a political crisis in the nuclear-armed country.
Tuesday’s arrest of the former cricket hero, and Pakistan’s most popular politician according to opinion polls, came at a precarious time for the country that is facing a shortage of foreign exchange and a months-long delay of an IMF bailout.
Mobile data services were shut for a second day while Twitter, YouTube and Facebook were disrupted, as security forces tried to restore order after violence killed one person late on Tuesday.
The government said supporters of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party had attacked important state buildings and damaged private and public vehicles. Police said 945 of his supporters had been arrested in Punjab province after 25 police vehicles and more than 14 government buildings were set on fire.
“This can’t be tolerated, the law will take its course,” Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal told a news conference. “These violent attacks were not the outcome of any public outpouring, they were planned by the PTI rank and file.”
Authorities in three of Pakistan’s four provinces have imposed an emergency order banning all gatherings after Khan’s supporters clashed with police.
Khan, 70, was arrested from the Islamabad High Court by Pakistan’s anti-corruption agency. Police said a court hearing would take place at the police guest house where he was being held in the Islamabad police lines area.
PTI has called for supporters to gather in the capital and for a “shutdown” across the country of 220 million.
His arrest came a day after the powerful military rebuked him for repeatedly accusing a senior military officer of trying to engineer his assassination and the former armed forces chief of being behind his removal from power last year.