Pakistan on edge after powerful military arrests Imran Khan in alleged graft case

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India Tomorrow

NEW DELHI–Pakistan is on the edge after paramilitary Rangers arrested former Prime Minister Imran Khan in an alleged graft case.

Dramatic visuals show paramilitaries in black gear whisking away Khan from Islamabad High Court premises despite his gunshot wounds in his leg.

Earlier, Rangers went on a rampage inside the court premises smashing the glasses and dragging Khan out.

Soon after Khan was arrested, Pakistan erupted in protests. Protestors clashed with police and paramilitary soldiers at several places leaving at least one person dead and 12 others injured on Tuesday.

Mobile data services in the country were shut while Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook were disrupted. Television carried watered-down coverage of violence that erupted on Tuesday.

Protestors burnt tyres and attacked the army garrisons in Punjab and other provinces as police tried to stop the fallout.

Khan, 70, was ousted as prime minister in April 2022 in a parliamentary no-confidence vote. Khan has not slowed his campaign against the ouster even though he was wounded in a November attack on his convoy as he led a protest march to Islamabad calling for snap general elections. He had accused Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Major General Faisal Naseer of ISI and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah for the attack on him.

The corruption case in which he has been arrested, pertains to some land allotted to Bahria developers. This is reported to be a politically motivated case. This is one of more than 100 cases registered against Khan since his ouster after four years in power. In most of the cases, Khan faces being barred from holding public office if convicted, with a national election scheduled for November.

Since his ouster as PM, Khan’s popularity has gone up tremendously. His PTI has won all the by-elections since then. Reports say that his party may return to power again in the national elections scheduled to be held at the end of this year. Those in power now, including some military officials whom Khan describes as “choron ka tola” (gang of thieves) may face consequences if Khan returns to power. Khan is known for his uprightness and had launched a campaign against corruption that hit former PM Nawaz Sharif and his associates adversely but it made Khan highly popular among the masses.

Khan had also annoyed the US and the European powers by taking a strong stand on the issue of blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him). He told the Christian powers they need to understand the world Muslim culture in which Prophet Mohammed is held in a very high esteem and insults to him through cartoons, speeches and write-ups can’t be allowed on the pretext of freedom of expression.

Freedom of expression, he said, can’t be the right to insult the Prophet. Khan played a major role in making the UN pass a resolution to declare March 15 every year as a day to combat Islamophobia. His speech on Islamophobia in the UN was historic and hailed all over the world. No Muslim leader in the world had taken such a strong stand on the issue, except Recip Tayyab Erdogan of Turkey. Khan also had serious differences with the US on Afghanistan.

All these issues made Khan unpopular among the leaders of the Christian world who ensured his removal from power through their surrogates in Pakistani politics and now got him arrested (dubbed as abduction because he was forcibly dragged from the court premises where Khan had gone to appear in one of the cases booked against him) through their henchmen in Pakistani military establishment.

Reports say that the conspiracy to arrest was hatched by the Pakistani military and civilian government with the support of foreign powers who are not interested in coming back of Khan and his party to power.

Former British parliamentarian George Galloway who is a regular face in TV talks in the UK, tweeted that former PM was “kidnapped at gunpoint on the orders of the hirelings of Washington DC.”

The attempted coup against Turkey’s Erdogan was also conspired by the US. Turkish agencies found involvement of a US Christian priest in Turkey and two US embassy officials in Turkey in the attempted coup, along with a Turkish Muslim religious leader based in the US. While the US got the Christian priest and its embassy officials through pressure on Erdogan, it has not so far handed over the Muslim leader to Turkey.

However, the designs of the US failed because a big section of the Turkish military came out in support of Erdogan and against soldiers and military officials involved in the foreign-conspired coup. People also came out on streets in support of Erdogan that defeated the designs of Western Christian powers. While Imran Khan has got massive support from the citizens who came in every town, city and village to oppose his arrest, it is not known if some sections of Pakistan military has openly opposed the arrest.

Youths in Pakistan military are reported to be hardcore supporters of Imran Khan. While news from Pakistan has stopped due to ban on Internet access, reports say that civilians were able to attack military garrisons and Pakistani Military headquarters because of a section of Khan’s supporters in the military. No other leader had got so much of public support in Pakistan’s history.

Pakistani establishment did not seem to expect so much of support for Khan from the public. However, the final outcome will depend on how much support Khan gets from his sympathisers in the military establishment. Erdogan had defeated the designs of the US and continued in power because of the support he got from a major section of the Turkish army.

Media reports said that his arrest comes at a time when Pakistanis are reeling from the worst economic crisis in decades, with record-high inflation and anemic growth.

An International Monetary Fund bailout package has been delayed for months even though foreign exchange reserves are barely enough to cover a month’s imports.

Authorities in three of Pakistan’s four provinces have imposed an emergency banning all gatherings after Khan’s supporters clashed with police.

The arrest came a day after the country’s powerful military rebuked Khan for repeatedly accusing a senior military officer of trying to engineer his assassination and the former armed forces chief of being behind his removal from power last year.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) called for a “shutdown ” across the country. PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the party’s senior leadership was in Islamabad to meet Khan and will approach the Supreme Court to challenge an Islamabad High Court order that deemed Khan’s arrest legal.

“We continue to call PTI family workers, supporters, and the people of Pakistan onto the streets for a peaceful protest against this unconstitutional behavior,” Qureshi wrote on Twitter.

A police spokesperson told the news agency that Khan will not be brought to court and his scheduled hearing will take place at the location where he is being held under custody in the Islamabad police lines area.

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