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Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is arrested in Islamabad

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In Pakistan, security forces have arrested the former Prime Minister Imran Khan. He lost his job but has since been favored to win it back in upcoming elections. He's also been fighting charges in more than 100 cases alleging corruption. And now he is in custody. NPR's Diaa Hadid is in Islamabad, the capital. Hey there, Diaa.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: What happened?

HADID: So today, security forces seized Imran Khan from a courthouse where he was in Islamabad. We could see footage that was shared by his supporters that showed paramilitary forces in khaki smashing a courthouse window to reach him. And we might have some of that ambi now.

INSKEEP: Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE SHOUTING)

INSKEEP: Sounds chaotic.

HADID: It was. And following his detention, there was panic across Islamabad. The roads were clogged up with commuters trying to get home. Parents were trying to pick up their kids from school. Police had closed off some roads. The internet was cut off in some areas. That was apparently to prevent protesters from coordinating. Still, Khan's supporters have blocked traffic in different intersections across the country. Where I live in Islamabad, some supporters even pelted commuter cars. And they announced more spontaneous protests on Twitter.

INSKEEP: Now, you said khaki-clad paramilitary men, which sounds different than, say, an officer of the court or police officers. I have so many questions now. Is it clear that he's been arrested by the authorities and not taken by somebody else? Is it clear which agency did this? What do you know, and why is this happening?

HADID: So the interior minister, Rana Sanaullah, issued a tweet and also held an impromptu press conference. And he says Khan was arrested in conjunction with a case against him in Pakistan's anti-corruption courts. Now, critics say these courts are being used to hound people who are critical of the military. And it's also not clear why they had to undertake such a dramatic arrest of him, considering he was in a court at the time and could have been handed a warrant. But I think what happened in previous days probably illuminates why we've reached this point today.

Khan has made a point in recent days of naming a specific military intelligence officer as being behind an attempt to assassinate him in November last year. Not only has he named him, he's also given him the moniker Dirty Harry. So it's sort of adding insult to injury. And so yesterday evening, Pakistan's military issued a highly unusual and very sharply worded statement against Imran Khan, warning him that he was acting irresponsibly. And so it seems that the arrest today has come into that context. Now, analysts say the next few hours and days could really decide the short-term future of this country.

INSKEEP: Among other things, we want to know what happens to Khan. Does he reappear in court? Does he stay in custody? And you don't know anything, do we?

HADID: No one in Pakistan knows anything yet.

INSKEEP: Diaa, thanks so much. Really appreciate the update.

HADID: Appreciate it, Steve. Thank you.

INSKEEP: NPR's Diaa Hadid is in Islamabad, Pakistan, where former Prime Minister Imran Khan has been arrested today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Diaa Hadid chiefly covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Islamabad. There, Hadid and her team were awarded a Murrow in 2019 for hard news for their story on why abortion rates in Pakistan are among the highest in the world.