Why was Imran Khan arrested?
On Wednesday, Imran Khan, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, revealed that his house was surrounded by the police, indicating that his arrest was imminent. He had been previously arrested by the anti-graft agency in a corruption case but was granted bail by the court. His initial arrest had incited violent protests nationwide, resulting in the deaths of at least eight individuals. Subsequently, a Pakistani official accused Imran Khan of harboring aides and supporters who were wanted for their involvement in attacks on the army. The official warned Khan that he had a deadline of 24 hours to hand over these individuals.
During a press conference, Punjab province’s information minister, Amir Mir, informed reporters that intelligence indicated the presence of 30 to 40 terrorists who had attacked army buildings and installations in Zaman Park, an upscale neighborhood in Lahore where Khan resides. Mir issued an ultimatum, demanding the surrender of these suspects to the police. Failure to comply would result in a police operation being launched.
In response to the allegations, Taimur Khan Jhagra, a politician from Khan’s political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), expressed concern about the escalating political tension and deemed the accusation of Khan sheltering riot suspects as dangerous. He criticized the caretaker government, which he claimed was focused solely on organizing elections and neglecting their constitutional duties. Jhagra denounced the unprecedented crackdown initiated by the government.
Khan was granted bail by the Islamabad High Court after his arrest on May 9, and the court extended his bail beyond the original expiration date of Wednesday. The prosecutor requested additional time to gather details regarding the case against Khan, as confirmed by his lawyer, Faisal Chaudhry.
The arrest of the former Prime Minister in a highly dramatic manner from an Islamabad courtroom has intensified the political instability in Pakistan, a country with a population of 220 million. Khan, who denies the corruption allegations, was ousted from power through a parliamentary confidence vote in April of the previous year.
Protests across the country
After Khan’s arrest in a corruption case on May 9, a large number of his supporters flooded the streets in protest. These demonstrations turned violent as individuals began setting fire to police stations, government buildings, official and public vehicles, as well as military assets and installations.
In response to the situation, Sharif’s office issued a statement declaring their intention to apprehend the troublemakers, the instigators of violence, and those who aided them. They planned to prosecute these individuals under the relevant constitutional provisions, including the Pakistan Army Act and Official Secrets Act. Sharif condemned the violence, categorizing it as “terrorism,” and mentioned that the army’s headquarters, an air force base, and an office of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency were targeted.
Sharif emphasized that those responsible for planning and inciting such acts of violence should not receive leniency. This decision received the military’s endorsement, as they announced that the rioters and their handlers had been identified and would face trial under army laws.
However, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), an independent civil rights group, strongly objected to the use of military laws to try civilians. While acknowledging the need to hold accountable those responsible for the arson and destruction of public and private property during the recent protests, they emphasized that due process should still be granted.
According to lawyer Abdul Moiz Jaferii, military courts, which operate under the Army Act and related legislation, do not adhere to the same standards of evidence and legal procedures as regular courts, as he informed Reuters news agency.
In response to the developments, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party accused intelligence agencies of orchestrating the shootings and arson during the violence. They claimed to possess substantial evidence supporting their allegations and stated that intelligence agents intended to create chaos and falsely implicate PTI to justify the ongoing crackdown. The party called for a credible investigation to identify the elements involved in the unusual incident of violence and disorder, although they did not present any evidence to support their claims.
Imran Khan has issued a warning that Pakistan is on the brink of an “imminent disaster” and could face disintegration. He accused the ruling coalition of conspiring to create a rift between his party and the army. Khan made these remarks in a video-link address from his residence in Lahore, emphasizing that holding elections is the only solution to end political instability.
Khan criticized the opposition leaders of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and Nawaz Sharif, who is currently in London, accusing them of being indifferent to the desecration of the country’s constitution and the destruction of state institutions. He alleged that their primary concern is safeguarding their own stolen wealth. Khan expressed concerns about the future, likening the situation to a “frightening dream” and appealing to the authorities to allow elections to take place for the country’s sake, even as the police surrounded his home.
Regarding the unrest that followed his arrest on May 9, Khan claimed it was a premeditated conspiracy executed on behalf of the ruling coalition and the Punjab caretaker government. He warned that if this situation persisted, Pakistan could face a situation similar to the disintegration of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Khan defended his criticism of the army, stating that it is akin to reprimanding his own children.
Furthermore, Khan denied interfering in the internal affairs of state institutions and revealed that he refrained from acting when he received confirmed reports of a former army chief conspiring against him. He alleged that some politicians informed the current army chief that Khan would remove him from his position if elected to power.
Reacting strongly to the Punjab government’s claim of terrorists hiding at his residence, Khan demanded a lawful search with a warrant, citing concerns for his own safety in the presence of terrorists. The article also discusses Pakistan’s historical relationship with its military, the economic challenges faced by the country, the upcoming federal elections, and the potential implications of the ongoing political turmoil. The author highlights the need for swift action and the potential risks involved, including the possibility of martial law or external intervention.