ISLAMABAD - A day-long high drama in the capital during appearance of former Prime Minister Imran Khan in a court on corruption charges has only added to the sense of chaos and uncertainty that the country has seen in recent months.
In the latest turn of a stand off between the supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and police, the situation remained tense on Saturday outside Islamabad’s judicial complex amid heavy tear gas shelling and stone pelting incidents.
In the start of the day, the police and other law enforcement agencies appeared in high spirits. Some special security arrangements had been made at the complex by surrounding it with shipping containers and encircling them with barbed wires. The presence of a large number of officials of security agencies in civvies was giving credence to some reports that PTI chief Khan this time would not succeeed to go back to his Zaman Park residence and land in jail. Overall situation in the city was also tense due to closure of many roads.
Ex-premier Imran Khan in a video message also said that it was now clear that Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), a coalition of ruling parties, had made all plans to arrest him to prevent him participating in his party’s election campaign for the upcoming polls in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Despite all their bad intentions, I would appear in the court because I believe in the rule of law, he added. However, the situation started to change in favour of Khan when he reached outside the judicial complex surrounded by his charged supporters. He could not enter the premises because his supporters clashed with the police and the violence led to injuring many, both the law enforcement personnel and the protestors.
Finally, the court allowed him to mark his attendance from inside his vehicle. Following this, the court cancelled his arrest warrants in Toshakhana case and adjourned the hearing till March 30 due to turbulence. He also averted facing inditement contrary to the expectations of many legal experts. The federal government could have avoided this chaotic situation by not creating hype of a normal incident of court appearance. But it chose the way like it did earlier this week in Lahore to execute the arrest warrants of Chairman PTI Khan. As a result, violent clashes broke out between the opposition party supporters and the police at Zaman Park, the area where ex-premier is residing. While Khan left Lahore to appear in a court of Islamabad, the police stormed his residence as well. This week’s turn of events have only increased the popularity of Khan and his party. Saturday’s events in Islamabad and Lahore were the latest show of political brinkmanship in the country. These have caused more embarrassment for the ruling coalition in the center and interim government in Punjab at a time when the country is already facing crippling economic and political crisis.