Former PM Imran Khan arrested amidst political crisis and protests in Pakistan

Protests have broken out across Pakistan following the arrest of former prime minister Imran Khan during a court appearance in Islamabad. Khan is facing a multitude of charges since being ousted from power last year in what analysts believe is a tactic used by Pakistani governments to quieten their opponents. If convicted, Khan could be prohibited from holding public office, preventing him from running in elections slated for later this year.

The arrest comes after months of political turmoil and amid heightened tensions between Khan and the military. His supporters took out their anger on the military, storming the residence of the corps commander in Lahore and besieging the gate of the army’s general headquarters in Rawalpindi. Police had to use tear gas and water cannons to scatter protesters in Karachi and Lahore, who were also blocking roads in Islamabad, Peshawar, and other cities.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah stated that Khan’s arrest was made by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Pakistan’s most prominent anti-corruption body. He added that the arrest was in accordance with the law and emphasised that the NAB operates independently of the government. It is currently unclear where Khan has been taken.

Khan’s relationship with the military, which supported his rise to power in 2018 but withdrew backing ahead of a parliamentary vote of no confidence in 2021, has been increasingly strained. The former international cricketer has accused a high-ranking military officer of plotting to kill him, prompting a warning against making “baseless allegations.”

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Michael Kugelman, the director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center, commented on the timing of Khan’s arrest, suggesting that the senior army leadership is uninterested in repairing their relationship with the ex-PM and may be sending a message with his arrest.

Before his detainment, Khan recorded a video urging his supporters to respond in support of “true freedom.” Protests have since escalated across the nation, while authorities have limited access to various social media platforms and imposed a total internet shutdown in some regions, according to global internet monitor NetBlocks.

Pakistan is currently grappling with economic and political instability, with Khan pressuring the struggling coalition government to hold early elections. As the situation unfolds, tensions are likely to continue building, with both the military’s influence over the nation and the legitimacy of Khan’s arrest remaining crucial points of contention.

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With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!

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