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Pakistan's former Prime Minister has been arrested after being sentenced to prison


There are fresh tensions in Pakistan after former Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested and taken into detention. This comes ahead of elections in Pakistan, where Mr. Khan's expected to play a key role. NPR's Diaa Hadid reports.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: Supporters of the former prime minister, Imran Khan, shared videos of a convoy of blaring vehicles taking their leader away. Khan's arrest came after he was found guilty of concealing the details of gifts he took from foreign dignitaries, gifts meant to be presented to the state. He was sentenced to three years prison. This was one of dozens of cases filed against Khan after he was ousted from power last April. It came after his relations soured with Pakistan's most powerful institution - the army. Tensions have only escalated since.


HADID: Paramilitary forces briefly arrested Khan in May, prompting his followers to destroy army installations. That triggered a wide-ranging crackdown that splintered Khan's party.

ARIFA NOOR: This was inevitable. Everybody knew this was coming.

HADID: Arifa Noor is a columnist with the newspaper Dawn. She says Khan still appears to command widespread support among Pakistanis, and his arrest was likely intended to ensure he can't contest elections. They're expected in the next few months.

NOOR: The plan was to imprison Imran Khan around the time of the elections so that he is unable to campaign; he's unable to mobilize his supporters.

HADID: In a video Khan's media team uploaded to social media before he was taken away, the former prime minister called on his followers to protest against his detention and for the right to a fair election.


IMRAN KHAN: (Speaking in non-English language).

HADID: He says, "this is a war for justice, for your rights, for your freedom." There was no immediate comment from the government or the military. One of Khan's lawyers, Babar Awan, says they'll appeal the court decision on Monday. He adds, unlike other Pakistani civilian leaders who fled into exile to escape persecution, Khan is staying put.

BABAR AWAN: There's no question of leaving the country.

HADID: Noor, the columnist, says a regular feature of Pakistani politics is that leaders are persecuted when they fall out of favor. The differences now - the economy is in dire straits, and people are angry. But whether they will stand up to authorities, who have cracked down on Khan's supporters in the past, is another matter. Diaa Hadid, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE OLYMPIANS' "PLUTO'S LAMENT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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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.