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LAHORE: Former prime minister Imran Khan called for nationwide “freedom” protests on Sunday, after his brief arrest and detention last week triggered deadly unrest.

The one-time cricket superstar – who has been tied up in dozens of legal cases since being ousted from power in April last year – was freed on bail on Friday after his detention was declared unlawful by the Supreme Court.

Enraged by the arrest, supporters set fire to government buildings, blocked roads and damaged property belonging to the military, which they blame for Khan’s downfall.

“Freedom does not come easily. You have to snatch it. You have to sacrifice for it,” he said in an address broadcast on YouTube Saturday night.

He called for his supporters to hold protests “at the end of your streets and villages” across the country on Sunday, and announced a return to campaigning on Wednesday for immediate elections.

For months, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman has waged a campaign of defiance against the military.

His arrest on Tuesday came just hours after he was rebuked for claiming senior officials were involved in an assassination attempt against him last year.

PTI chief Imran Khan returns home after arrest, riots

“The army chief’s actions have made our military bad. It is because of him, not because of me,” Khan said from his home in Lahore, although it was unclear whether he meant the serving chief, or his predecessor, whom Khan has held responsible for his ouster.

He previously told reporters that “one man, the army chief” was behind his arrest.

But Khan distanced himself from the attacks against the military’s installations at the protests, denying his party workers were involved and calling for an independent investigation into the violence.

Legal system has given NRO to Imran Khan: PM Shehbaz

The army, which denies the accusations made by Khan, on Saturday warned against attempts to create “misperceptions” against the institution.

‘Anti-state behaviour’

At least nine people died in the unrest last week, police and hospitals have said.

Hundreds of police officers were injured and more than 4,000 people detained, mostly in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, according to authorities.

At least 10 senior PTI leaders have been arrested since the protests began, one of Khan’s lawyers said.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the head of a shaky coalition, on Saturday warned that those involved in “facilitating, abetting and perpetrating” the violence should be arrested within 72 hours.

Imran calls for independent probe into vandalism during protests

“Those who demonstrated anti-state behaviour will be arrested and tried in anti-terrorist courts,” he said during a visit to Lahore.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has repeatedly vowed that police will re-arrest Khan, who remains wildly popular ahead of elections due in October.

The Islamabad High Court ruled that Khan should be given protection from arrest until Monday.

‘Everyone knows’

Khan won the 2018 election on an anti-corruption campaign, voted in by an electorate weary of decades of dynastic politics.

PDM says will stage protest outside SC

The political crisis has simmered for months, with Khan attempting to disrupt the coalition government by dissolving two provincial parliaments he controlled and agitating for early elections.

Comments

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Abdullah May 14, 2023 01:51pm
He is trying best to divert attention from his corruption of 190million £ by burning pakistan and hurting innocents to create chaos. But we will not forget you are corrupt.From toshakhana to 190million we remember it all.
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Love Your Country May 14, 2023 04:17pm
@Abdullah, - under the protection of robe-wearing wise men, he can freely do everything and the people of Pak can just watch in anguish.
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Notsurprised May 14, 2023 04:19pm
A man who is unhappy at home goes out and fights a lot. Maybe Niazi is just scared/tired of current wife and lashing out using his followers. Because it seems that Niazi cannot live a day without riling people up, protesting or screaming. Sadly, he is making the entire country show symptoms of his own disease.
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Tulukan Mairandi May 14, 2023 04:22pm
Why not call for worldwide protests?
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Love Your Country May 14, 2023 06:56pm
@Tulukan Mairandi, - anything is expected to whip up the support.
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TimeToMovveOn May 14, 2023 07:49pm
Pakistan has become a snake that is eating its own tail while somehow believing that the tiger next door, ie, India will disintegrate.
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Pakistani1 May 14, 2023 09:05pm
On one hand he asks people to protest, when they do he says these are not pti people. A toxic man who is only interested in his own power.
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faiz jalib May 14, 2023 11:40pm
I wonder why the courts have given relief to the poor man's son, who guaranteed that his ailing brother, the rich man's son, would be back in a few weeks after medical procedures. I guess the son took after his real army father, Zia ul Haq, who said he'll exit in 90 days and stayed on years and years.
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Love Your Country May 15, 2023 02:15am
@faiz jalib, and what did P Musharraf say when he hijacked the country? Why did the CJP not stand up for the constitution?
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Aamir Latif May 15, 2023 08:00pm
Lunatic and his never ending mantras..... What a disgrace he is, a person who cannot talk respectfuly is a worst and not worthy to be called a leader..
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