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HomeAsiaImran Khan, Pakistan’s Ex-Leader, Is Arrested

Imran Khan, Pakistan’s Ex-Leader, Is Arrested

Pakistan’s ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested on corruption charges on Tuesday, in a major escalation of a political crisis that has gripped the country for the past year and prompted a backlash from his supporters. There is a possibility of mass unrest.

The arrest intensified the rivalry between the powerful Pakistani military and Mr. Khan, and plunged the country into uncharted political territory. While Pakistani leaders have faced arrest before, none like Mr. Khan have directly — and with massive public support — challenged the military, which for decades has been the invisible hand behind the government. has been the driving force.

Political tensions have been rising for months as Mr Khan, a popular former cricket star who was ousted from office last year, has accused the military and the current government of conspiring against him. Both the military and government officials deny the claims.

Mr. Khan was at a court hearing in Islamabad when he was arrested by paramilitary forces, officials said, and he remained in custody on Tuesday. A video of the arrest, circulating on social media, showed Mr Khan being led away in a law enforcement vehicle, surrounded by a mob of riotous security personnel. kept Mr. Khan was arrested in connection with the transfer of land for a university, officials said, as he faces one of several corruption cases.

His political party called for protests soon after his arrest and demonstrations broke out in several cities.

In Lahore, large numbers of Mr. Khan’s supporters vandalized the official residence of an army commander. Hundreds of protesters also gathered outside the army headquarters in Rawalpindi, just outside Islamabad. And in the port city of Karachi, police fired tear gas to disperse crowds that blocked the city’s main thoroughfare, and protesters burned a police vehicle, a prison van and a paramilitary outpost. gave

The unrest offered a stark reminder of the turbulent political landscape of Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 230 million people that has struggled with instability and military coups since its founding 75 years ago. Is. The military has ruled for more than half of that history, and even under civilian governments, military leaders are seen as the force responsible for bringing political dynasties in and out of power.

Mr Khan – whose party commands significant loyalty across the country – has made A brilliant political comeback In the wake of his dismissal last year. His rallies drew tens of thousands of people, with Mr. Khan and others calling for fresh elections and alleging that Pakistan’s military establishment was plotting to oust him.

Prosecutors have opened dozens of court cases against Mr. Khan in recent months, including terrorism and corruption charges, and he has faced repeated threats of arrest if he does not appear in court.

Mr. Khan and his supporters deny the allegations and call them a misuse of the justice system by the government and the military led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to keep him out of politics. Political and military leaders deny these claims.

Tensions around Mr Khan turned violent in November, when he was Injured during rally After an unknown assailant opened fire on their convoy, in what aides described as an assassination attempt. In recent months, Mr. Khan has accused a senior intelligence official of playing a role in the shooting.

On Monday, military officials strongly condemned the allegations, issuing a statement saying Mr. Khan had targeted military and intelligence officials through “violent and sensationalist propaganda” to advance his political agenda. .

The release of the news, an unusual public statement from a political leader by military leaders, underscores the depth of the conflict between him and Mr. Khan.

Madiha Afzal, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, said his arrest was “about crossing the army’s ‘red line’ with his recent comments against Khan’s military and intelligence services officials.” “It’s about Khan’s growing conflict with the military establishment over the past year, and the fact that the latter see Khan as an existential threat.”

Mr. Khan was arrested in connection with a case related to the transfer of land for Al-Qadir University near Islamabad, officials said. Mr. Khan is accused of giving Malik Riaz Hussain, a powerful real estate tycoon, land and donations to the university in return.

Pakistan’s anti-corruption body, the National Accountability Bureau, said it had sent several notices to Mr Khan that had been ignored. He is now being held at one of the bureau’s offices in Rawalpindi, a northern region of Pakistan, officials said.

He will be produced in court on Wednesday, officials said.

Analysts say the drama surrounding Mr. Khan has only fueled his popularity, underscoring his ability to outplay Pakistan’s distinctive playbook to oust leaders who have fallen out of favor with the military. Highlight.

Over the summer, his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI, scored impressive victories in local elections in Punjab — a province that has often served as a bellwether for national politics — and in Karachi.

The victories were also seen as a response to the worsening economic conditions that the government has struggled to cope with, and as a repudiation of the military establishment.

But they have cracked down on Mr Khan’s supporters. Seen by many as a coordinated effort. by the authorities to reduce his political prospects.

Journalists known to be sympathetic to Mr. Khan say that he has been harassed by the authorities. Live broadcasts of his speeches have been banned from news networks. A mainstream channel, ARY News, was forced to air an interview with one of Mr Khan’s top aides in which he made anti-army comments.

The crisis has flipped the script for Mr Khan, who benefited from a close relationship with the military when he was in office. Elect Prime Minister In 2018 At the time, his opponents claimed that the authorities acted belligerently. A campaign of coercion and intimidation which prevented any opposition and ensured Mr. Khan’s success.

Military officials have denied the allegations and maintained that the agency has adopted a “neutral” stance in the current political crisis. The military ousted Mr Khan in a no-confidence vote early last year, paving the way for lawmakers in parliament to withdraw their support for him.

But Mr. Khan has retained widespread popularity. A symbol of the traditional practices of the authorities Analysts say that in the age of social media, it may not be enough to silence a populist politician.

Now many people are afraid of Khan’s arrest. Will make the chaos worse. Which has engulfed the country in recent months. Before Tuesday, his aides were warning that his detention would spark widespread unrest.

“His supporters have demonstrated their ability to come in large numbers and bring life to a standstill,” said Islamabad-based political analyst and writer Zahid Hussain.

Soon after the arrest, the official social media accounts of Mr Khan’s political party released a message from Mr Khan, recorded last year, in which he directed party workers to stage nationwide protests following his arrest. do

Many people rallied behind the appeal on Tuesday, and protests are expected to continue this week – raising fears of possible violent clashes between police and Mr Khan’s supporters.

“We are not afraid of tear gas and batons,” said Muhammad Shafiq, a 24-year-old student who was among the protesters in Karachi. “Nothing is more important to us than Khan Sahib.”

Ziaur Rahman contributed reporting.



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