LAHORE: Imran Khan, Pakistan’s former prime minister, called for nationwide “freedom” protests on Sunday, following his brief arrest and detention last week, which sparked fatal violence.
The one-time cricket superstar, who has been embroiled in dozens of court lawsuits since his ouster from power in April last year, was released on bail on Friday after the Supreme Court ruled that his arrest was illegal.
Enraged by Khan’s arrest, fans set fire to government buildings, stopped roads, and attacked military property, blaming it for Khan’s collapse.
“Liberty does not come easily.” You must seize it. “You have to make sacrifices for it,” he stated in a YouTube message Saturday night.
On Sunday, he called for protests “at the end of your streets and villages” around the country, and declared a return to campaigning for quick elections on Wednesday.
For months, the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has waged a disobedience campaign against the military.
His arrest happened just hours after he was chastised for suggesting high officials were involved in an assassination plot against him last year.
Pakistan’s powerful military has ruled the country directly for roughly half of its 75-year existence, and it still wields power over the political system.
“Our military has suffered as a result of the army chief’s actions.” It is because of him, not because of me,” Khan remarked from his Lahore home, though it was unclear if he meant the current head or his predecessor, whom Khan has blamed for his departure.
He previously told reporters that his arrest was the result of “one man, the army chief.”
However, Khan distanced himself from the protestors’ attacks on military sites, denying that his party’s members were participating and calling for an impartial probe into the violence.
The army, which denies Khan’s charges, issued a warning on Saturday against attempts to generate “misperceptions” about the institution.
According to authorities and hospitals, at least nine individuals perished in the turmoil last week.
According to authorities, hundreds of police personnel were injured and over 4,000 individuals were detained, predominantly in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
According to one of Khan’s lawyers, at least ten key PTI leaders have been arrested since the protests began.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the leader of a fragile coalition, warned on Saturday that anybody “facilitating, abetting, and perpetrating” the violence should be arrested within 72 hours.
“Those who have demonstrated anti-state behavior will be arrested and tried in anti-terrorist courts,” he stated during a visit to Lahore.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has consistently stated that police will re-arrest Khan, who remains extremely popular ahead of the October elections.
The Islamabad High Court determined that Khan should be granted bail till Monday.
Khan won the 2018 election on an anti-corruption platform, supported by voters tired of decades of family politics.
According to independent commentators, he came to power with the support of the military before falling out with the generals.
“Everyone recognizes who it is. “The military is behind (Khan’s arrest),” Mohsin Khan, a 21-year-old PTI fan, told AFP outside the party chief’s residence.
The pushcart vendor went on to say that he wants the military and government to “work together.”
The political crisis has been simmering for months, with Khan attempting to destabilize the coalition government by dissolving two province legislatures under his control and calling for early elections.
Mobile data services and access to social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube, which were suspended quickly after Khan’s arrest on Tuesday, were partially restored across the country as of Saturday.
The country now appears to be on the verge of a “progressively ugly showdown in the days and weeks to come,” according to an editorial in Dawn, the country’s biggest English-language newspaper.
“None of the leaders, political or institutional, who are invested in this tug-of-war appear to be ready to take a step back,” the report concluded.