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 Sharif at their jail, Bukhari said.

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

Khan’s government has dismissed 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.