Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested Tuesday morning after appearing at the Islamabad High Court on corruption charges, with dramatic footage showing him being escorted away by dozens of security forces before he was loaded into a black armored vehicle and driven off.
The incident has been met with condemnation by his supporters, who have called for massive protests in a move that could escalate already tense internal politics within the nuclear-armed nation.
Reports noted that the former prime minister, who led from 2018-2022, was forcibly dragged out of the courtroom by Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau, according to a senior official in Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
Footage of the event showed Khan being quickly walked down a street outside the courthouse by hordes of guards donning riot gear.
Streets have already been blocked by dozens of protesters in Khan’s hometown of Lahore, roughly 230 miles south of Islamabad near the border with India, where police have reportedly been put on high alert.
Even further south, in the port city of Karachi, protesters have also blocked a major road in response to the arrest.
Khan’s party has called on supporters to “shut down Pakistan” in a show of opposition.
“It’s your time, people of Pakistan. Khan has always stood for you, now it’s time to stand for him,” officials from the PTI wrote on Twitter.
Political tensions in Pakistan have remained heightened since Khan was ousted in April 2022 after losing a no-confidence vote – making him the first Pakistani prime minister to be removed from office by such a proceeding.
Khan has remained opposed to the move and claimed that opposition forces were working with foreign powers under a U.S.-led conspiracy to oust him over his refusal to stand with Washington on issues relating to Russia and China, reported the BBC last year.
The U.S. has rejected these accusations and said there is “no truth” in them. Khan has also yet to provide proof to back up his allegations.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah claimed Tuesday that Khan – whose previous arrest attempts were met with heavy clashes between security forces and his supporters – was arrested by the Accountability security forces after failing to appear before NAB “despite notices.”
The bureau issued an arrest warrant for Khan on May 1 on accusations relating to “corruption and corrupt practices.”
Reuters contributed to this report.