After Imran Khan’s arrest on May 9th in the Islamabad High Court, Pakistan has been rocked by large-scale protests and demonstrations by PTI party workers and supporters.
In July 2018, Imran Khan was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan after winning 149 seats in the election, along with several independents joining his party. Imran Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice in Urdu), ran on a populist platform. A coalition government was formed with different smaller parties as the PTI fell short of a complete majority.
Many opposition parties alleged widespread electoral fraud and vote rigging in the election, and Imran Khan’s tenure had many controversies. A collapsing economy and conflict with the military would eventually see Imran Khan removed from office in April 2022 with a no-confidence motion.
Pakistan since then has been going through an extended political crisis as Imran Khan calls for early general elections and his party dissolves two of their state legislative assemblies in Punjab and KPK.
However, Imran Khan has been banned from contesting elections and has had corruption charges levelled against him, which he claims is a political move. His trust, Al-Qadir Trust, has been accused of laundering over PKR 50,000 billion (250 million dollars) in the UK.
Image Source: BBC News
Imran Khan’s Arrest
After earlier failed attempts to arrest him, Imran Khan was detained in the Islamabad High Court on May 9th on corruption charges. Videos have emerged of him being escorted into a police van by security officers. In the following days, several of his party members and leaders were also arrested.
Protests and violence after his arrest
Imran Khan’s arrest sparked violent protests all over the country by PTI leaders and supporters. Large-scale clashes took place between police and protestors in several cities all across Pakistan.
In Islamabad, the main highway was blocked by PTI supporters, while rioting and stone-pelting were seen throughout the city. A police station in Islamabad was also set on fire. In Peshawar, people burned down the offices of Radio Pakistan and the Associated Press Pakistan.
Many military establishments were also attacked, and the houses of PM Shahbaz Sharif and top military officials were attacked by mobs in Lahore. The Corp Commander’s house in Lahore was also attacked, and a police station was burned down as well.
Till now, eight people have been killed in the violence, and hundreds have been injured. The state governments of Balochistan, KPK (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), and Punjab asked for military deployments in their regions because the police were unable to handle the situation.
Image Source: BBC News
Government and Military Response
In response to the protests by Imran Khan supporters, the government of Pakistan shut down internet services across the country. Schools, offices, and colleges across the country have also been closed until the violence dies down.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shahbaz Sharif, claims that Imran Khan’s arrest was legal and that destroying public property was a form of domestic terrorism.
The military has been deployed in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Islamabad as the situation there is spiralling out of control. Over 100 police officers have been injured in Punjab, and hundreds of police vehicles have been destroyed, leading to the army stepping in.
The Pakistani military, through its media wing, said that “what the eternal enemy of this country could not achieve for the past 75 years, this group, disguised in a political cloak, has done just for the sheer lust of power”.
It is important to note that Imran Khan had been critical of the military establishment, and many believe that the Army had a role to play in his ousting.
Image Source: Al Jazeera
As the law and order situation continues to deteriorate in Pakistan, the ailing economy and internal political strife spell disaster for the country.