KARACHI (Reuters): Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Saturday gave authorities 72 hours to identify and arrest all those involved in violent acts after former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s arrest this week sparked deadly unrest.
Sharif said the cases would be tried by anti-terrorism courts. “All available resources including technological aid and intelligence are being deployed to chase down these elements. Bringing these people to justice is a test case for the government,” said the premier.
Khan departed court premises late Friday night and headed towards his hometown Lahore amid high security, after a court granted him bail. His arrest in a land fraud case on Tuesday, which the Supreme Court ruled “invalid and unlawful” on Thursday, sparked violent protests by his supporters. They stormed military establishments, set ablaze a state broadcaster building, smashed buses, ransacked a top army official’s house and attacked other assets, resulting in the army being deployed in multiple cities. More than 2,800 arrests were made, while 152 police officers were injured, 74 police vehicles vandalised and set on fire, and 22 government buildings, including police stations and offices, were damaged, said the police of Pakistan’s most populous province, Punjab.
At least eight people were killed in the violence, a spasm of unrest in a country that is facing economic crisis, with record inflation, anaemic growth and delayed IMF funding.
Following Sharif’s announcement, Punjab’s government released pictures of unidentified protesters involved in an attack on a military official’s residence on Wednesday.