Pakistan arrests opposition leader ahead of planned protests

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan’s anti-graft body arrested an opposition leader Monday over his alleged involvement in a money laundering case after a court rejected bail for him, a move coming just before planned protests next month by his party seeking to force Prime Minister Imran Khan’s resignation.

Shahbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League party was arrested at court following the bail denial, said Faisal Raza Bukhari, a lawyer for the National Accountability Bureau. The anti-graft body now will question him at their jail, Bukhari said.

The Pakistan Muslim League party criticized his arrest as being politically motivated. It comes a week after Shahbaz’s brother, Nawaz Sharif, who served three times as Pakistan’s prime minister, broke a nearly yearlong silence from exile in London. He vowed to oust Khan from office through the protests. Nawaz Sharif accused Khan of only reaching power with the military’s help.

The latest development comes two weeks after Nawaz Sharif was declared a fugitive by a court for not returning home to face corruption cases. In a rare move, he took to Twitter to denounce the arrest of his brother, saying the arrest of his brother was linked to the opposition’s next month’s rally against Khan.

Nawaz Sharif’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, who is a leader of the Pakistan Muslim League opposition party, also slammed Shahbaz’s arrest at a news conference, saying such tactics could not stop the movement launched by them against Khan. Nawaz Sharif has been in London since authorities last November released him on bail so he could travel and seek medical treatment abroad.

Khan’s government has dismissed Nawaz Sharif’s allegation, saying the opposition is only united because they fear ongoing corruption cases targeting them.

Pakistan’s military has ruled the country of 220 million people — directly or indirectly — for most of its history. Pakistanis went to the polls in 2008 after a military dictator Pervez Musharraf stepped down and voted for the party of former President Asif Ali Zardari, who also was indicted Monday by another court in separate corruption case.

Zardari is currently on bail and is regularly attending court hearings against him.

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Associated Press writer Asim Tanveer contributed to this story from Multan, Pakistan.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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