Imran Khan to face graft charges in special court following nationwide protests

Photo Courtesy Bangkok Post

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is set to appear in a special court today at Islamabad’s police headquarters to address corruption allegations, following his unexpected arrest that led to violent nationwide protests yesterday. Khan’s detention comes after months of political turmoil, and soon after the influential military criticized the former cricket star for claiming that a high-ranking officer was involved in a scheme to assassinate him.

In response to Khan’s arrest, demonstrators attacked the military, setting fire to the Lahore residence of the corps commander and laying siege to the army’s general headquarters in Rawalpindi. In Peshawar, the Chaghi monument – a mountain-shaped sculpture commemorating Pakistan’s first nuclear test – was destroyed by a mob. Police clashed with Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party supporters in cities across the nation last night, resulting in two reported fatalities.

Although tensions seemed to have eased this morning, a significant security presence was observed throughout the capital, particularly near the special court where Khan will appear. Authorities have closed schools nationwide and continue to limit access to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the PTI’s vice chairman, urged supporters to maintain peaceful and lawful protests while announcing that party lawyers would file multiple appeals and petitions against Khan’s arrest.

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The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Pakistan’s main anti-corruption organization, accused Khan of ignoring several court summons, which led to his arrest yesterday. Since being removed from office in April, Khan has faced numerous charges – strategy experts say is frequently employed by Pakistan’s governments to silence opposition. If found guilty, he would be barred from holding public office, effectively excluding him from the upcoming elections later this year.

Imran Khan’s arrest followed a warning from the military against making “unfounded allegations” after he accused a senior officer of planning his assassination. The reprimand highlights the strain in Khan’s relationship with the military, which supported his ascendancy to power in 2018 but then withdrew its backing before a vote of no confidence last year.

“The senior army leadership is uninterested in repairing the rift between itself and Khan,” said Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center. “So with this arrest, it’s likely sending a message that the gloves are very much off.”

The international community quickly responded. The United States seeks to “make sure that whatever happens in Pakistan is consistent with the rule of law, with the constitution,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a press conference with British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly yesterday. “We want to see peaceful democracy in that country,” added Cleverly.

Amid an economic and political crisis, Pakistan’s beleaguered coalition government faces increasing pressure from Khan to hold early elections. Relying on the staunch support from his massive public following, he has become more vocal against the establishment. However, Pakistani authorities arrested Imran Khan during what was expected to be a routine court appearance yesterday. Crowds surrounded the Islamabad High Court premises as Khan, who has had a pronounced limp since surviving an assassination attempt last year, was forcibly escorted by dozens of paramilitary rangers to an armoured vehicle.

At a recent rally in Lahore, Imran Khan reiterated accusations that senior intelligence officer Major-General Faisal Naseer was involved in the assassination attempt in which Khan was shot in the leg last year. The military’s Inter-Services Public Relations wing dismissed the allegations as “fabricated and malicious,” calling them “extremely unfortunate, deplorable and unacceptable.” The government attributes the assassination attempt to a solitary gunman who is now in custody after confessing in a video controversially leaked to the media.

Pakistan’s military, the world’s sixth largest, has wielded significant influence over the country since gaining independence in 1947, staging at least three coups and ruling for over three decades.

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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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