“Such scenes were never seen by the people of Pakistan,” Sharif said, following a Cabinet meeting. “Even patients were taken out of ambulances and ambulances were set on fire.”
Sharif called the attacks “unforgivable,” and warned that those involved in violence would be given exemplary punishment. He said Khan was arrested because of his involvement in corruption, and that there was evidence available to back up these charges.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the late Benazir Bhutto’s son, urged Khan’s followers on Thursday to end the violence but stressed that peaceful protests are their right. “What has happened, has happened. Don’t make things more difficult for yourself,” he said.
Following the violence, the government has shut down schools, colleges and universities in the eastern Punjab and northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, where Khan has a massive grassroot following and from where most of the violence was reported after his arrest. The government also suspended internet service in various parts of the country.
The government blames Khan and senior leaders from his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party of inciting people to violence, which continued Thursday in Punjab and in the northwest.
On Wednesday, a court in Islamabad decided that the National Accountability Bureau can hold Khan in its custody for eight days for questioning over a graft case.
The military headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi was attacked and Khan’s supporters stormed security posts in the northwest, torching the security Chakdara fort on the border with Afghanistan. In Lahore on Tuesday night, demonstrators ransacked and then burned down the residence of the top regional commander in Lahore, Lt. Gen. Salman Fayyaz Ghani.