Anti-corruption investigators arrested the leader of Pakistan's opposition, days after parties vowed a campaign of marches to dislodge Imran Khan from power.
Shehbaz Sharif, who leads the opposition in the national assembly, was arrested in Lahore when the city's high court rejected a bail plea in a money laundering case.
Colleagues from his Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party condemned the arrest as part of an ongoing campaign of political intimidation against opposition leaders.
His arrest came a week after his brother, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, had attempted to galvanise opposition to Mr Khan's government which he said had been put in power my generals acting as a “state above a state”.
Mr Khan swept to power on an anti-graft platform after Nawaz Sharif was ousted over corruption charges. A raft of leaders from the PML-N and the other leading opposition bloc, the Pakistan Peoples Party, have been pursued on by accountability courts since 2018. Mr Khan has hailed the cases as a long awaited reckoning for a corrupt elite. Opposition leaders say the purges are a political witch hunt which ignores corruption in the government and military.
PML-N figures said the latest arrest was an attempt to exert pressure days after Nawaz Sharif, the three time former premier who is currently in exile in London, called for the removal of Mr Khan,
Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of the former premiere, said: “Sharif has been arrested only because he refused to play in the hands of those who wanted to use him against his brother. He preferred standing behind prison bars than to stand against his brother."
Opposition parties have promised a campaign of protest marches demanding Mr Khan's resignation. The former cricketer won power in 2018 on his promises to root out corruption and build a welfare state in Pakistan. A painful economic crisis followed by the Covid-19 pandemic have instead brought price rises and widespread financial pain.