In a shocking turn of events, PTI chief Imran Khan, who was present at the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for two hearings on Tuesday afternoon, was arrested from the court’s premises in the Al-Qadir Trust case. Mr. Khan’s arrest is something that had been attempted on multiple occasions in the recent past, but this time the “red line” of the PTI camp has been crossed. The political atmosphere in the country was getting increasingly tense following Mr. Khan’s irresponsible and incendiary rhetoric, but this was not something that seemed to be on the cards. While the arrest can be argued to be legal, the manner in which it was carried out and the resulting unrest throughout the country is extremely concerning.
Following the arrest, Islamabad police released a statement quoting Inspector General (IG) Akbar Nasir as saying that Imran had been arrested in relation to the case which alleges that the PTI chief and his wife obtained billions of rupees from a real estate firm for legalising a laundered amount of Rs50 billion. As expected, protests have erupted in multiple cities across the country and this will not bode well for the overall deteriorating situation in Pakistan.
The country is undergoing a poly-crisis at the moment and it appears that none of the stakeholders are focused on firefighting. Political leaders are prioritising short-term interests over those of the nation, and that is applicable across the board. As far as Mr Khan is concerned, his routine tirades are only increasing polarisation across the country and are bringing disrepute to the country’s institutions at a time when you need all hands on deck.
This latest development will only plunge the country further into chaos and unrest. Even if the arrest is legal, the optics surrounding it are quite problematic. This was part of a NAB investigation, but there was no NAB officer present at the time of the arrest. Further, the use of Rangers for the arrest and their rough tactics, along with the damage caused to the courts, is something that will only raise further questions and suspicions. This of course cannot be viewed in isolation from the crisis surrounding general elections, and this arrest will only further the PTI’s narrative—fabricated or not—of persecution and result in further chaos and unrest.