May 10, 2023

PAKISTAN: Paramilitary Violently Arrested Former Prime Minister And PM's Home Was Set On Fire. His Arrest Warrant Was Also Signed By A Military General. Court Ordered Him To Remain In Custody

UPDATE 5/11/23 at 4:15pm: Added info below.

written by AFP staff
Wednesday May 10, 2023

Former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan was remanded in custody for eight days on Wednesday by an anti-graft court as violent nationwide protests over his arrest erupted for a second day.

Khan was arrested on Tuesday during a routine hearing in the capital Islamabad and whisked away to an unknown location overnight before appearing behind closed doors in a specially convened court at police headquarters.

The drama follows months of political crisis during which Khan, who was ousted in April last year, has waged an unprecedented campaign against the country's powerful military.

"If they think that the arrest of Imran Khan will demoralise us, then they are hugely mistaken," said Niaz Ali in Peshawar, where several monuments and government buildings have been torched.

He added:
We stand with Imran Khan and will support him till death.
Ali Bukhari, a lawyer for Khan, told AFP by phone that the court had approved eight days of physical remand of Khan demanded by the country's top graft agency.

Afzal Marwat, another of Khan's lawyers, earlier said Khan was in "good spirits" but had complained of being hit on the back of the head and leg by paramilitary forces who arrested him.

The former cricketing superstar, who remains wildly popular, has previously said the dozens of cases brought against him are part of an effort by the struggling government and military establishment to prevent him from returning to power.

His arrest has brought thousands of his supporters to the streets in cities across the country, where police have attempted to quell crowds with tear gas.

At least six people have died in protest-related incidents, police and hospitals reported, including one person who died from smoke inhalation after a multi-storey building was set on fire in Lahore.

Confrontation with military

Khan's arrest came hours after the military rebuked him for alleging that a senior officer had been involved in a plot to kill him.

Pakistani politicians have frequently been arrested and jailed since the country's founding in 1947, but few have so directly challenged a military that has staged at least three coups and ruled for more than three decades.

Criticism of the military establishment is rare in Pakistan, where army chiefs hold significant influence over domestic politics and foreign policy, and have long been accused of interfering in the rise and fall of governments.

Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center, said:
The senior army leadership is uninterested in repairing the rift between itself and Khan. So with this arrest it's likely sending a message that the gloves are very much off.
Internet cut, exams cancelled

The interior ministry had ordered mobile internet services to be cut and restricted access to social media sites Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, the country's communications agency said.

Authorities have ordered schools closed across the nation - with end of year exams cancelled for students.

Hundreds of police officers have been injured across the country, while in Pakistan's most populous province of Punjab nearly 1 000 people have been arrested and the army ordered to deploy to keep peace.

Farooq Bhatti, a van driver, told AFP:
At a time when we are already struggling to feed our children, further uncertainty has been created.
Some protesters took out their wrath on the military, torching the residence of the corps commander in Lahore and gathering outside the entrance to the army's general headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi and pelting it with stones.

On Wednesday, the military's media wing released a statement warning of a "strong reaction" against those who attack military and state installations".

Overlapping crises

Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar told a press conference there was "no political vendetta" surrounding Khan's arrest.

The case that led to his detention was brought by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Pakistan's top anti-corruption body, which said he had ignored repeated summons to appear in court.

Tarar said:
Whenever he was summoned to court, he would do so at his own leisure -- and only after being given a final warning.
Pakistan is deeply mired in an economic and political crisis, with Khan agitating for early elections while the government is weighed down by security and economic turbulence.

He has been increasingly outspoken against the establishment, relying on near-fanatical support from the huge crowds that accompany his public appearances to protect him from arrest.

At a weekend rally in Lahore, Khan repeated claims that senior intelligence officer Major-General Faisal Naseer was involved in an assassination attempt last year during which he was shot in the leg.

The military's Inter-Services Public Relations wing in a statement rejected "this fabricated and malicious allegation".

The government says the assassination attempt was the work of a lone gunman, who is in custody and who confessed in a video controversially leaked to media.
Business Insider
written by Huileng Tan
Tuesday May 9, 2023

The Chinese yuan is gaining traction in cross-border payments — even for trades that don't involve China.

Pakistan, a country mired in an economic and political crisis, has become the latest to signal using the Chinese currency to make cross-border payments for Russian oil.

Islamabad is considering the new payment method for Pakistan's first Russian crude oil order for 750,000 barrels that are scheduled to arrive in the first week of June, The News International, a prominent English-language daily, reported last Friday.

"Pakistan will pay the price of crude most probably in China's currency — yuan," an unnamed Pakistan energy ministry official told the media outlet. The official declined further comment on the pricing of the crude shipment.

The country has been indicating in recent weeks that it wants to snap up Russian oil. Petroleum minister Musadik Malik told Reuters in April that Pakistan will eventually import around 100,000 barrels of Russian crude daily if the first transaction goes smoothly.

The South Asian country's potential shift to the yuan comes as countries globally are lining up backup currencies to either trade with heavily sanctioned countries like Russia or for political leverage.

Pakistan's purchase of Russian oil comes also amid sweeping sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. Although the trade restrictions have hit Russia's energy revenues, the energy giant has still been able to sell its energy at a discount to opportunistic buyers, such as China and India.

Countries mired in economic difficulties — like Pakistan and Sri Lanka — have also joined the queue as Russian energy is now being sold at a discount. Russia's flagship Urals crude is trading at around a $20 per barrel discount to benchmark US and Brent crude oil currently.

Pakistan has been facing an economic crisis that started last year amid soaring inflation, a sustained depreciation of its currency, and low foreign currency reserves. All these factors make payments difficult for a country that needs to import about 80% of its crude oil and refined petroleum products requirement.

The South Asian nation is in such dire straits that it is trying to secure a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

On top of its economic woes, Pakistan has been mired in a political crisis that recently intensified after former prime minister Imran Khan was arrested on Tuesday.

Pakistan's energy ministry did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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