In response to the escalating tensions, violent protests, multiple deaths, mass arrests and ‘indefinite’ ban on mobile internet since the arrest of the former prime minister Imran Khan in Pakistan, Rimmel Mohydin, regional campaigner at Amnesty International, said:
“There is an urgent need to de-escalate the situation in Pakistan as it threatens further severe violations of rights of the people and risks more fatalities. The authorities should be aiming to defuse the situation and the use of force by the state must go no further than is necessary and proportionate. Amnesty International strongly urges Pakistani authorities to exercise restraint and use minimum force without resorting to the use of firearms to disperse protestors. The authorities must also ensure no arbitrary arrests are made and that there is evidence of reasonable suspicion of criminality for each arrest.
“Alarmingly, the government has announced that the mobile internet shutdown is ‘indefinite’ which is a clear violation of people’s right to access information and free expression. The ban on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube also creates a permissive environment for other human rights violations under the darkness of the internet shutdown. The restrictions must be lifted immediately.”
On 8 May 2023, former prime minister Imran Khan was arrested at the premises of the Islamabad High Court by the Pakistan Rangers, a paramilitary force, in connection with a corruption case. His supporters held demonstrations nationwide against his arrest, many of which turned violent, and the army was called in response.
At least eight people have died nationwide in the protests and 1,400 have been arrested as per police reports in media, including other political leaders of the Tehreek-i-Insaf party.
Schools and offices have remained closed for the last two days, with exams being cancelled nationwide.