ISLAMABAD: In a development that could set the country’s political powder keg on fire, a heavy contingent of Rangers Tuesday raided Islamabad High Court (IHC) and arrested Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, while acting on National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) arrest warrants in Al-Qadir Trust case.
Khan had gone to IHC to seek bail in multiple FIRs registered against him when he was arrested by the law enforcement agencies — a move that threatens to escalate the political crisis.
Rangers personnel driving a black Toyota Hilux Vigo took the PTI chief away to NAB Rawalpindi.
Khan’s warrants were issued on May 1 by NAB chairman Lt Gen (retd) Nazir Ahmad Butt.
NAB, in a statement, said Khan was booked under Section 9A of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999.
“The arrest was ordered and implemented by the NAB,” the accountability watchdog said in a statement, adding, “Rangers troops were deployed there for the action on the orders of the Ministry of the Interior”.
The statement made it clear that the Rangers did not detain Imran Khan, while Section 144 was already imposed in the federal capital.
The development comes a day after the army criticized the PTI chief for accusing one of their senior officials of orchestrating assassination attempts against him and challenged the former premier to address the matter in court.
The cricketer-turned-politician has been agitating for early elections after getting ousted in April 2022 in a no-confidence vote. Emboldened by strong support in opinion polls and rallies, Khan has shown no signs of backing down against the government and the army and is seeking support from the Supreme Court to hold polls in two provinces for a start.
Khan, 70, faces a slew of court cases and was set to be formally indicted on Wednesday in a case that involved allegations he did not properly disclose earnings from the sale of state gifts from his time in office.
Islamabad’s IG police confirmed that the PTI chief has been arrested in the Al-Qadir Trust case. He said that Section 144 is currently in force in the federal capital and action will be taken in case of violation.
Exclusive video when Khan was arrested
Meanwhile, Geo News has obtained an exclusive video of when the PTI chief was arrested. In the video, Khan can be seen sitting with sunglasses calmly observing the developments.
According to Geo News, the PTI chairman was going for biometric at the IHC when he was taken into custody. The NAB officials had arrest warrants — which were issued on May 1 by NAB chairman Lt Gen (retd) Nazir Ahmad Butt.
As per details, Khan was taken into custody under Section 9A of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999.
Confirming the arrest, Islamabad Inspector General of Police (IGP) Dr Akbar Nasir Khan said that the PTI chief was arrested in the Al-Qadir Trust case, adding that the situation is under control.
Khan’s lawyer Barrister Ali Gohar told media personnel that the Rangers had tortured Khan.
“Imran Khan was hit on the head and his injured leg,” he claimed, adding that he and Ali Bukhari were present with the PTI chief at the time of the arrest.
“Rangers broke through the glass and entered the diary branch,” Advocate Gohar added.
He added that law enforcement personnel broke the main gate of the High Court, and Rangers ransacked the biometric place while arresting Khan.
‘Score of lawyers, general people tortured’
Taking to his Twitter, PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry alleged that Khan had been “abducted” from the court premises while score of lawyers and general people had been “tortured”.
“Imran Khan has been whisked away by unknown people to an unknown location,” he claimed.
Govt denies reports of torture
Minister for Interior Rana Sanaullah categorically denied reports of inflicting torture on the PTI chairman during his arrest.
Taking to Twitter, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senior leader said: “Imran Khan did not ensure his appearance despite several notices. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) arrested him for causing damage to the national treasury.
“No sort of torture was inflicted on him [Khan],” the interior minister wrote on his official handle.
Committee to announce next plan of action: Asad Umar
Taking to Twitter, PTI Secretary General Asad Umar condemned the arrest and announced that a committee will announce the next plan of action.
“Pakistan’s biggest political leader arrested after attack on the high court. The whole world is shown that there is no law left in the country,” he said.
Umar said that the party’s six-member committee, formed by Khan and headed by Shah Mehmood Qureshi, will announce PTI’s plan of action.
PTI asks workers to stage country-wide protest
“Pakistan’s people, this is the time to save your country. You won’t get any other opportunity,” the PTI party wrote on Twitter.
Subsequently, PTI workers protested in cities across the country, including Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Karachi, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Multan, Peshawar, and Mardan.
In Karachi, demonstrators clashed with the police near Nursery. They threw stones at and set fire to police vehicles, tore down street lights, and damaged a bus. There were reports that police fired teargas shells at the protesters.
Police also fired teargas shells at protesters on Rawalpindi’s Murree Road.
PTI leaders condemn the arrest
PTI leader Hammad Azhar has demanded the nation, and not just the party’s workers and supporters, step out in protest against Khan’s arrest.
“Today, a leader of the Islamic world has been arrested and reports of torture on him have been received. This is unacceptable in any way,” the former federal minister said.
Azhar asserted that Khan is the party’s “red line” and the only honest leader of the Islamic world. “He has not committed a crime or looted people’s millions and billions of rupees. He did not abscond to another country.”
The party’s leader said that the country will be handed over to thieves and dacoits forever, and no one will be able to live there with dignity.
Regarding the “illegal” move, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi disapproved of his party chief’s arrest. “The entire nation should immediately take to the streets,” he said asking everyone to come out in protest.
PTI leader Murad Saeed claimed that Khan was tortured and taken into custody. He urged all party workers and supporters to take to the streets.
“It’s time free Pakistan from these oppressors and false gods. It’s time for Haqeeqi Azadi. Come out to the places you’ve been asked to arrive at,” he said.
Condemning the incident, PTI leader Shireen questioned the country’s laws.
“What laws? Courts attacked by Rangers as if invading an occupied land — lawyers [and] IHC staff also beaten,” the former human rights minister wrote.
Mazari termed Pakistan a “fascist state where High Court has been attacked by paramilitary forces.”
IHC takes notice
Following Khan’s arrest, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq took notice of the matter, and summoned the Islamabad IG and the interior secretary within “15 minutes”.
He also directed the Additional Attorney General to appear before the court in 15 minutes and instructed him to immediately find out who was behind the arrest.
“If an inquiry has to be conducted, action will also be taken against the prime minister and ministers,” CJ Farooq said.
Justice Farooq further asked: “Tell us in which case the arrest was made?”
The Islamabad advocate general then requested that the court extend the time of 15 minutes to half an hour; however, the request was rejected and he was ordered to appear in 15 minutes.
Subsequently, Islamabad IGP Dr. Khan appeared at the IHC and submitted a copy of the NAB’s warrant. He said the anti-graft watchdog utilized the help of any law enforcement agency as per its requirements.
Meanwhile, Khan’s lawyer Gohar told the court that the security personnel had “tortured” lawyers, while the PTI chairman was “struck on his head and injured leg”.
Khwaja Haris, who was also part of Khan’s legal team, argued that a person could not be arrested from court premises if bail applications had been filed. “Khan’s fundamental right cannot be violated.”
Haris further said that the PTI chief had found about the NAB inquiry being turned into an investigation through the newspaper and a bail application had been readied. The former premier had come to the court to get biometric verification done in connection with the application, he stated.
Other members of Khan’s legal team — Ali Bukhari, Faisal Chaudhry, and Naeem Haider Panjhota — also apprised the court of the circumstances surrounding the PTI chairman’s arrest.
Meanwhile, IHC CJ Farooq inquired from the additional attorney general whether Khan’s arrest was legal. “Where will we stand if the [legal] system breaks down? This matter is related to the functioning of the system,” the judge observed.
Subsequently, the court summoned DG NAB and the anti-graft body’s prosecutor general to appear in person in 30 minutes.
What is Al-Qadir Trust case?
The former prime minister, along with his wife Bushra Bibi and other PTI leaders, are facing a NAB inquiry related to a settlement between the PTI government and a property tycoon, which reportedly caused a loss of 190 million pounds to the national exchequer.
As per the charges, Khan and the others accused allegedly adjusted Rs50 billion — 190 million pounds at the time — sent by Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) to the government.
They are also accused of getting undue benefit in the form of over 458 canals of land at Mouza Bakrala, Sohawa, to establish Al Qadir University.
This is a developing story and is being updated with more details.