The arrest came during a pre-dawn raid on Choudhry’s home in Lahore, the capital of eastern Punjab province, Chaudhry’s family said. Shireen Mazari, a spokeswoman for Khan’s party, said Choudhury was taken directly to court in handcuffs by police in Lahore.
Video later released by the party showed supporters of Choudhury gathering in the courtroom and throwing rose petals at him as police brought him to court.
Angered by his arrest, hundreds of Choudhury’s supporters blocked a major highway in his hometown of Jhelum in Punjab province to demand his release.
Islamabad police said in a statement that Chaudhry was arrested following a complaint from the Pakistan Election Commission on charges of threatening the head of the election watchdog, Sikanda Sultan Raja, and other officials. Police said the threats were aimed at preventing them from carrying out their duties and inciting violence against them.
On Tuesday, Choudhry criticized the election watchdog’s appointment of veteran journalist Mohsin Naqvi as Punjab’s interim chief minister. Khan’s party and its allies govern Punjab and hold a majority in the provincial assembly, but dissolved the lower house earlier this month in an apparent move to put pressure on the Islamabad government.
The dissolution of the provincial assembly triggered early elections, which, according to the constitution, will be held within 90 days.
Chowdhury told reporters on Tuesday that Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s government could arrest Khan at any time. Khan remained popular with a broad grassroots following in a no-confidence vote in parliament last April and has led the opposition since.
Khan, a former cricket star turned Islamist politician, was shot in November while leading a rally to the capital Islamabad. One of Khan’s supporters was killed in the shooting and several others were wounded.
In October, the Election Commission disqualified Khan from holding public office for five years after finding that he had illegally sold state gifts and concealed assets as prime minister. Khan denies the allegation and has filed a court motion challenging the committee.
Khan also claimed that he was overthrown in a conspiracy by Sharif and Washington, which they both denied.
Along with the provincial assembly in Punjab, Khan’s allies also dissolved the legislature in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province earlier this month, where JAMA also holds a majority. The party’s call for an early federal election was rejected by Sharif’s government, saying the vote would go ahead as scheduled later this year.