Supporters of Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, are planning a protest march to Islamabad today where he is being held in custody on corruption charges – after almost 1,000 of them were arrested in one province alone.
The 70-year-old was arrested by security forces at the High Court in the capital on Tuesday and dragged into an armoured vehicle and driven away.
Violent clashes have erupted between his supporters and police in several cities following his detention, and at least one person has been killed in the southern city of Quetta.
Police said 945 of Mr Khan’s supporters have been arrested in Punjab province, more than 130 officers have been injured, 25 police vehicles set on fire, and around 14 government buildings severely damaged and looted.
A court hearing scheduled for today to determine whether Mr Khan can be kept in custody for up to 14 days would instead take place at the police compound where he is being held, authorities said.
In response, his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party called for peaceful demonstrations across the country.
His supporters in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province have been asked to gather in the city of Swabi to leave for Islamabad as part of a convoy.
“We continue to call PTI family workers, supporters and the people of Pakistan onto the streets for peaceful protest against this unconstitutional behaviour,” said PTI vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
In the port city of Karachi, police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of Mr Khan’s supporters.
Videos seen by Sky News in Pakistan show army bases being broken into by civilians and army vehicles being set alight in Lahore and Rawalpindi.
The home of Lieutenant General Salman Fayyaz Ghania – a top army chief – in the eastern city of Lahore was set on fire.
On Wednesday morning, police said at least 2,000 protesters were still surrounding the house, chanting slogans including, “Khan is our red line and you have crossed it”.
In a statement, Pakistan’s information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb denounced the attacks by the ex-PM’s supporters, saying it was done “in an orchestrated manner on Imran Khan’s directions”.
Internet services have been suspended across the country and access to Twitter, YouTube and Facebook have been disrupted, according to officials at Pakistan’s telecommunication authority.
Mr Khan’s arrest came a day after the country’s powerful military criticised 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 April.
He had recorded a video message before heading to Islamabad, claiming officials were out for his arrest to prevent him from campaigning.
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The cricketing hero-turned-politician – who has been pushing for new elections – has denounced the cases against him, which include terrorism charges, as a politically motivated plot by his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office has warned of further disruption in the country.
The UK’s foreign secretary James Cleverly said: “The UK has a longstanding and close relationship with Pakistan. We are Commonwealth partners. We want to see peaceful democracy in that country. We want to see the rule of law adhered to.”