On Tuesday, thousands of protesters marched across Pakistan as the country was shook by new political turmoil caused by the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran. In the chaos that erupted in all major cities of this Asian nation, at least two people were killed.
Khan, 70, the former Pakistani cricket captain and leader of the main opposition party was arrested on Tuesday on corruption charges when he appeared before the high court, in Islamabad, the capital.
The video of the arrest shows dozens of paramilitary soldiers in riot gear surrounding Khan, and leading him by his arm into a van. Later, Gohar Khan told journalists, who were present, that Khan had been beaten by paramilitary troops during the arrest.
He told the Dawn newspaper that “they hit Imran’s leg and head” and claimed that the wheelchair Khan was using at the moment had been thrown aside and confiscated when he was arrested.
Khan, the leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, the political party that Khan leads, was arrested one day after Pakistan’s powerful military issued an unusual public rebuke against the former premier for making repeated accusations about a senior official. Khan claimed the official had tried to assassinate him and that the former top military commander was behind the moves to stop him from returning power.
Rana Sanaullah told reporters that Khan had been arrested at the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) request. He said Khan, along with his wife, were suspected of receiving land valued at around $24.7million from a developer who had been accused by British authorities of money laundering.
Sanaullah claimed that British authorities returned $240m to Pakistan as a result of money laundering in this case. He also said Khan was accused of returning the money to the developer rather than keeping it in national treasury while he served as premier.
Khan has denied any wrongdoing.
This is just one of over 100 corruption cases that have been filed against Khan after he was removed from power by a parliamentary vote on November 20, 2022. He had served four years of a five-year mandate.
Khan could be barred from public office if convicted in the majority of the cases brought against him. Khan is set to run in the November national elections, despite his popularity among Pakistanis.
After Khan’s arrest his party called for supporters to “shut Pakistan down.”
The party posted a tweet saying: “It is your time, Pakistanis.” Khan has always stood up for you. Now it’s your turn to stand up for him.
Tweeted videos showed PTI demonstrators occupying military installations, including the homes of army leaders in Rawalpindi. The main thoroughfare of Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, was blocked and cars set on fire.
The authorities issued an order prohibiting protests in several cities including Islamabad, the capital, and Peshawar, which is the largest city in the northwest Khyber Pukthunwa Province. Officials reported that at least five police officers in Islamabad were injured seriously and 43 protesters were arrested.
PTI claimed that two of its supporters, one in Quetta, and the other in Lahore were killed in the chaos by law enforcement officers. Many videos posted by members of their party showed protesters being shot at in various cities.
Khan’s arrest, and the call for protests from his party, dealt a new blow to the country that is armed with nuclear weapons. It struggles to deal with political unrest as well as an economic crisis. The inflation rate has reached 36%. And the IMF bailout was expected to be delayed months.
The central bank raised the interest rate to 21%, a record high to combat inflation. This has worsened the already high unemployment and poverty rates.
Food inflation has reached a record high of 40%. Women and children were killed in food distribution centers.
Since November, the IMF bailout for the 220 million-person nation has been on hold. The country’s foreign exchange reserves are rapidly running out, and with only $4.5 billion in the bank account left to cover imports for a month, the program is stalled.
Khan’s biggest win came before he became prime minister in 2018. He described his team fighting like “cornered Tigers” as they lifted the trophy in 1992, sending millions of Pakistanis in a frenzy. The military and coalition government that now runs Pakistan will hope that Khan’s latest adventure doesn’t end up being a repetition of the 1992 Cricket World Cup.