Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested in Islamabad on Tuesday during a court hearing. According to Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, Khan was arrested by Pakistan’s anti-corruption body, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), after he failed to appear before a tribunal “despite notices.”
NAB issued arrest warrants for Khan on May 1, accusing him of “corruption and corrupt practices.”
Soon after his arrest, Khan’s supporters took to the streets, chanting slogans against the Pakistan Democratic Movement coalition government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the powerful military. Violent clashes between citizens and police continued for a second day across Pakistan. Local media said many people were killed.
Authorities imposed a state of emergency in parts of the country to quell the unrest.
The situation is still tense in the country as Khan was brought to an accountability court on Wednesday. A court in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, jailed him for eight days.
“Imran Khan was arrested without any prior warrant or notice,” Asad Umar, a senior official from Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, told DW on Tuesday. “We are protesting the arrest, which is our constitutional right,” he said, adding that PTI workers were not involved in violent protests.
“We will file an appeal in the Supreme Court against Khan’s arrest,” he added. On Wednesday, Umar himself was detained by the authorities in Islamabad.
Many crises in Pakistan
Khan was ousted by a no-confidence vote more than a year ago. But this is only the beginning of a bitter battle as Khan hopes to return to the top position. He claimed that his expulsion was illegal and part of a Western conspiracy.
The former premier led a series of protest marches against the government and was even shot in the leg in an apparent assassination attempt last November.
In recent days, Khan has accused a senior intelligence officer, Major-General Faisal Naseer, of involvement in the assassination attempt. The military said these comments were “fabricated” and “unacceptable.”
The former prime minister pushed for a national election to be held even before the regular August deadline.
As Pakistan battles a severe economic crisis, Sharif’s government struggles to secure a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Khan’s fight with the military
Authorities say the country does not have the funds to organize polls, but PTI officials say the government is simply afraid of Khan’s popularity.
Some analysts believe that the 70-year-old former prime minister was arrested not because of his alleged involvement in corruption but because of his constant criticism of military generals.
“The arrest of Khan by paramilitary forces – and the manner of the arrest, with many forces in riot gear – is not part of any corruption case against Khan, as the reason for the arrest, but must seen in the context of his recent comments. against military officials and intelligence services. Those comments seem like a ‘red line’ to the military,” Madiha Afzal, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who based in Washington, told DW.
The military, which is accused of orchestrating Khan’s rise to power in 2018, has denied all involvement in his arrest.
“Khan’s benefactors in the past [military generals] not interested in engaging with him despite the former premier’s repeated requests to start a dialogue,” political analyst Raza Rumi told DW.
Afzal said the military seems to have had enough of PTI’s “anti-army” campaign. “Khan’s popular support protects him against [military] construction of the previous year; but now that the establishment is asserting itself, it’s hard to see it backing down, and it’s hard to see how the situation will deescalate. This is a very dangerous development,” he said.
A dialogue is needed
Analysts DW spoke to agreed that Khan’s arrest has significantly changed Pakistani society. They predicted that the conflict between state institutions would intensify, with judicial, political and constitutional crises mired in financial collapse.
In March, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) — an independent rights group — urged the country’s warring political parties to respect democratic norms.
“Not only politics but society is deeply divided. We are heading towards an ugly fight within and between state institutions… unless the political parties come together and solve the issues through dialogue in the greater national interest,” Harris Khalique, HRCP secretary-general, told DW.
“All issues must be finally resolved on the floor of parliament. Those political stakeholders who are not represented in parliament must be included in these government processes of the day through direct talks,” added Khalique.
Edited by: Shamil Shams