Imran Khan launches 'fill the jails' protest in Pakistan
Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday that around 700 of his party's leaders and activists have been arrested by Pakistani authorities, a day after he called on his supporters to seek detention as part of a nationwide protest.
Khan tweeted earlier on Wednesday that his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was launching a 'Jail Bharo' or 'fill the jails' campaign in protest against the government, amid allegations that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his allies were persecuting members of his party.
Today we start our Jail Bharo campaign for Haqeeqi Azadi for 2 main reasons. One, it is a peaceful, non violent protest against the attack on our constitutionally-guaranteed fundamental rights.We are facing sham FIRs & NAB cases, custodial torture, attacks on journalists & social— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) February 22, 2023
Khan said that he wanted his supporters to be detained to protest against "the attack on our constitutionally-guaranteed fundamental rights" by the government, he tweeted.
He also alleged that the current government led by Shahbaz Sharif is persecuting his followers and silencing his party.
Khan said that the protest was also against Pakistan's "economic meltdown" which he said was "brought on by cabal of crooks who have money laundered billions in looted wealth".
He said this had caused "spiralling inflation and rising unemployment".
The party began its demonstration in the city of Lahore, where authorities have imposed restrictions on gatherings.
Imran Khan was removed from power in April 2022 after losing a vote of no-confidence in parliament. He has since staged several mass protests to demand early elections, which are otherwise scheduled for later this year.
This comes as Pakistan struggles with a nationwide economic crisis and double-digit inflation that has raised the prices of essentials such as food and fuel. The country's foreign reserves have fallen to less than $3 billion, the equivalent of around three weeks' worth of imports according to The Financial Times.
The situation has been further worsened by devastating floods last year which killed hundreds of people and destroyed large swathes of crops and farmland.
Islamabad has long requested a bailout from the IMF and is currently deadlocked with the organisation over a $7 billion assistance package.