On May 9, 2023, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, was arrested by the country’s anti-corruption agency, National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The arrest was made at the Islamabad High Court and it led to nationwide violence as clashes erupted between Khan’s supporters and the police. The arrest was linked to a property fraud case and UK money laundering allegations. Khan, a popular leader according to opinion polls, was surrounded by dozens of paramilitary troops in riot-control gear who led him into a black van by his arm.
Imran Khan’s video was recorded prior to his arrest and shared on his social media account
The arrest of Khan triggered a state of emergency and a ban on all gatherings in three of Pakistan’s four provinces. Khan’s supporters blocked major roads, stormed military buildings in Lahore and Rawalpindi, and clashed with police, leading to the death of at least one protester and the injury of 12 people. The country’s telecommunications watchdog suspended mobile data services on interior ministry orders while access to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube was restricted.
Khan’s arrest came at a time when Pakistan is going through its worst economic crisis in decades, with record-high inflation and anemic growth. The arrest also came a day after the military rebuked him for repeatedly accusing a senior military officer of trying to engineer his assassination and the former armed forces chief of being behind his removal from power last year.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that Khan and his wife were accused of having received land worth up to 7 billion rupees ($24.7 million) from a property developer who had been charged in Britain with money laundering. Sanaullah added that British authorities had returned 190 million pounds ($240 million) to Pakistan in connection with money laundering, but that Khan had returned the money to the developer instead of keeping it in the national exchequer.
Khan has denied any wrongdoing, and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party called on supporters to “shut down Pakistan” over his arrest. The graft case is one of more than 100 registered against Khan since his ouster after four years in power. In most of the cases, Khan faces being barred from holding public office if convicted, with a national election scheduled for November.
Political infighting is common in Pakistan, where no prime minister has yet fulfilled a full term, and the military has ruled for nearly half of the country’s history through three coups. Khan repeated his accusations against the military on Tuesday, adding that the same senior officer, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Major-General Faisal Naseer, was behind the murder of a renowned Pakistani journalist in Kenya in October. However, the military has denied Khan’s allegations.
The arrest of Imran Khan, a popular and charismatic leader, has sparked nationwide violence in Pakistan, leading to one death and several injuries. The arrest is linked to a property fraud case and UK money laundering allegations. The situation is highly charged, with Khan’s supporters calling for a nationwide shutdown in protest against his arrest.
This comes at a time when Pakistan is experiencing a severe economic crisis, and the political future of the country remains uncertain with the national elections scheduled for November. The arrest also highlights the ongoing political infighting in Pakistan, where no prime minister has yet fulfilled a full term, and the military continues to wield significant influence in the country’s political landscape.