Saturday, April 20, 2024

Instability in Pakistan after Imran Khan’s Arrest

Written By Darshan M (Grade 10)

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested by Islamabad High Court On 9th May 2023. After a few hours, people all over the country take to the streets to protest. These heavy protests turn into riots in some places. There was widespread violence. More than 2,000 people were arrested. Imran Khan openly accused the Pakistani army. And that’s why we witnessed some historical scenes during the protests. For the first time, average Pakistani citizens openly start protesting against the military. It is said that this level of instability in Pakistan was not seen in the last few decades. It is being called the biggest crisis in Pakistan since 1971. 

Last year, in April 2022, when Imran Khan’s government fell when he lost the no-confidence vote in the Parliament. Since then, Imran Khan has been involved in a series of legal cases. Cases of corruption, murder, and even terrorism. Khan and other members of his political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have been accused of about 140 crimes. 34 of these cases are against Imran Khan. Now, the arrest of Imran Khan on 9th May was specifically done on corruption charges. These investigations were being led by Pakistan’s NAB, i.e. National Accountability Bureau. So what was this corruption case exactly? This case was related to Al-Qadir University Trust. This is a non-governmental welfare organization that was set up by Imran Khan and his third wife Bushra Bibi. This trust was formed in 2018 when Imran Khan was the Prime Minister. Even as a Prime Minister, he promoted this trust in official events. This trust runs a university that is devoted to spirituality and Islamic teachings. In June 2022, Imran Khan was accused of buying land worth millions of rupees to build this university from Malik Riaz, a property tycoon. Pakistan’s NAB claims that Imran Khan’s government had a deal with this property tycoon which caused Pakistan’s government to lose $239 million. 

Now on 9th May, Imran Khan had gone to Islamabad High Court to attend a hearing in some other case. And then, the NAB arrested him using paramilitary forces. The scenes of this arrest were very scary. NAB claimed that it was necessary to arrest him because despite giving notices, Imran Khan was not appearing in front of them. The former prosecutor of the NAB says that although NAB has the authority to arrest someone in case of repeated absence, the case against Imran Khan is very weak. According to the revised amendment, NAB has to complete its inquiry first. And the report needs to be shared with the accused. Additionally, there is another case in which Imran Khan is badly entangled.

In October 2022, a court in Pakistan ruled that Imran Khan cannot hold any political office for the next 5 years. He cannot contest in elections. This was in the Toshakhana case. In Pakistan, Toshakhana is a treasury of gifts. If the price of a gift is less than a certain value, the receiver can keep the gifts with him but the expensive gifts have to be sent to Toshakhana. The major accusation, in this case, was that Imran Khan was given many expensive gifts and Imran Khan misled officials regarding those gifts and sold them at very exorbitant prices in the market.

In this case, he found respite later on when the court said that he would still be allowed to contest the elections. But after he was arrested in the Al-Qadir case, in the Toshakhana case too, he was detained in police custody for 8 days. There were roadblocks, tires were set on fire, police used water cannons and in many cases, tear gas was also used. Pakistan’s current Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, warned that violent protests will not be tolerated. Many Imran Khan Supporters set fire to cars and petrol bombs were also thrown at the residence of the current Prime Minister. 

Now, the thing is this political crisis is not the only crisis that Pakistan is facing. There is a devastating economic crisis in Pakistan. Currently, inflation is at a record high. Inflation has reached up to 30%. With inflation this high, it is expected that the International Monetary Fund will have to bail out Pakistan. The third problem is the numerous terrorist attacks in Pakistan. There was a recent attack in Balochistan. Before this, there was an attack on the border of Pakistan-Iran. In January, there was a horrific explosion in a mosque in Pakistan, killing 60 people. The situation is very unstable. 

The political game between Imran Khan and the Pakistan Army. In November 2022, there was an assassination attempt on Imran Khan. He was participating in a protest march when someone fired a bullet at his feet. Imran Khan directly accused the Pakistan military and said that the Pakistani army is trying to kill him. He claims that the Major General of ISI, Faisal Naseer, is conspiring with Prime Minister to kill him. An interesting point to note here is that in 2018, when Imran Khan won the elections and became the Prime Minister, many people believed that it was with the support of the Pakistani army and military establishment. 

For many decades, the Pakistani army ruled directly over Pakistan. There was a military dictatorship. But even after democracy was adopted and other politicians came to power, it is said that the Pakistan army has indirect control over the government. Pakistan’s army not only has heavy control over the country’s politics but also exerts a heavy influence on business. This is why during the first few years as the PM, Imran Khan passed many pro-military policies. Many military generals were given important portfolios of the government to control. There was tight control over the media. The opponents of Imran Khan faced heavy crackdowns and many opposition leaders were also put behind bars. Since then Imran Khan has been openly against the military and since the recent assassination attempt on him, he has been directly accusing the Pakistani army saying that they are trying to kill him. Pak Army does not like it at all when any political leader becomes so popular that he starts overshadowing the military establishment.

In Pakistan, the history of military dictatorships has been so long that it was only in 1970 that the first general elections took place in Pakistan. Compare this to India. Both countries got independence in the same year, but India’s first general election was in 1951. It took Pakistan almost 20 years longer to conduct elections. So, in this context, India has a golden history in this regard. We had peaceful transfers of power from one Prime Minister to the next. But it would not be wrong to say that when Imran Khan was the Prime Minister, he had a chance to change the system. He had the chance to reduce the influence of Pakistan’s military. To try to set up a new healthy democracy. But he did not do that. Now the question arises, what will happen next? Will Pakistan’s military establishment, be successful in suppressing Imran Khan, like the other PMs? Or will Imran Khan, his protests, and his supporters be successful in destroying the Pakistani army’s power? 

If we look at history, there’s always been a military coup in Pakistan in such cases. When the military has a hard time dealing with democracy, and they want to be in control of everything, they decide to establish a military dictatorship. So far, there have been 4 military coups in Pakistan. 2008 was the most recent year when Pakistan was under a military dictatorship. And since then, thankfully, democracy has remained strong. The protests that are taking place in Pakistan today, it cannot be denied that this is the first time that the public has shown so much anger against Pakistan’s military. This is why it is said that if a military coup is attempted by the Pakistan military, the public response will be even stronger. 

On the other hand, if there is no military coup, and elections are held, many experts believe that obviously, Imran Khan will win the elections. If this happens, what he does after winning the elections will also be very interesting to watch. Many people have already started demanding early elections. For now, the elections have been planned for October 2023. If we talk about the recent arrest, Imran Khan finally got relief from the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The Pakistani Supreme Court ruled his arrest as illegal and so he was released on bail on 12th May. After this, for now, the protests have cooled down to a large extent and have turned into celebrations. People are celebrating on the streets. We need to wait and watch what happens next.

Featured Image Courtesy – Business Today


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