Pakistan: Guterres calls for end to violence following arrest of Imran Khan
UN Photo/Cia Pak Imran Khan, Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s 74th session.
Mr. Khan pleaded not guilty to corruption charges on Wednesday, appearing before a judge at a police guest house, which also served as a court room, according to news reports.
His appearance there, reportedly coincided with an indictment by the High Court in Islamabad, in a separate corruption case brought by the Election Commission, involving allegations that he sold millions of dollars-worth of State gifts – charges which the former premier and cricket star, has also denied.
If convicted, Mr. Khan would be reportedly disqualified from standing for office, with elections due later this year.
Tuesday’s arrest was carried out by dozens of security officers, who forcibly removed him from court, into a police vehicle, sparking widespread protests from his supporters.
News reports say that around 1,000 people have been arrested nationwide, and eight have died during the protests so far, with hundreds injured.
With protests continuing, mobile internet, and access to social media, was reportedly down on Wednesday, while schools and universities in Punjab – Pakistan’s most populous state – were closed.
Hundreds were reportedly arrested there, with at least 25 police vehicles set alight, and 130 officers injured during clashes, with some official buildings looted.
‘Refrain from violence’
In a statement issued by his Spokesperson, UN chief António Guterres, took note of the ongoing protests, and called “for all parties to refrain from violence.”
Mr. Guterres “calls for all parties to refrain from violence. He stresses the need to respect the right to peaceful assembly”, the short statement continued.
The UN chief also urged the authorities “to respect due process and the rule of law in proceedings brought against former Prime Minister Khan.”
Mr. Khan, who served as Prime Minister for four years from 2018, was remanded in custody for eight days, in relation to the charges relating to an alleged illegal transfer of land.
According to news reports, his political party, the PTI, said that he had not been given access to legal counsel, and pledged to challenge the legality of his arrest on Tuesday, in court.