The government of Pakistan has put restrictions on Imran Khan, his wife Bushra Bibi and more than 500 leaders and members of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party from travelling abroad following arrests, torture and forced resignations of top PTI leaders and crackdown on protesters and their family members.
Earlier in May, after a dramatic snatching of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan by paramilitary forces from the confines of Islamabad High Court and following nationwide popular protests for the last three days, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled the arrest illegal and ordered his release on Thursday 11 May.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial asked Khan to appear on Friday at the Islamabad High Court where Khan may ask the court for protection from future arrests. Meanwhile he remains detained under the jurisdiction of the court.
On Tuesday 9 May morning the anti-corruption agency of Pakistan arrested the former Prime Minister, Imran Khanfrom Islamabad High Court using a paramilitary force breaking in through windows and doors.
According to eyewitnesses, Khan was subjected to physical assault, torture, and dragged into an armored vehicle by the paramilitary force.
This resulted in a fresh wave of unrest in the country, with violent confrontations erupting between the police and Khan’s supporters, resulting several deaths and more than 1600 arrests.
Khan’s detention took place shortly after he made accusations against Major-General Faisal Naseer, a high-ranking officer of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, who has been nicknamed “Dirty Harry.”
Khan alleged that Naseer had made repeated attempts to plot his assassination, and he also implicated a former chief of the armed forces in his removal from power the previous year.
Additionally, the same intelligence officer has been accused of being responsible for the murder of the prominent Pakistani journalist Arshid Sharif in Kenya last October. Interestingly, the military publicly criticized Khan for his statements a day prior to his arrest.
Pakistan’s military has had a long and controversial involvement in the country’s politics since its independence from British rule in 1947. The military has played a significant role in shaping the political landscape of Pakistan, often intervening in the country’s political affairs, either directly or indirectly.
Throughout the history of the country, the military has repeatedly assumed control of the government through coups or the imposition of martial law, resulting in four instances of martial law and three decades of military rule.
In these periods, the military played a significant role in shaping the nation’s political and economic policies, often at the expense of civilian institutions, thereby weakening them and asserting its own supremacy.
The military has faced significant criticism for its severe human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings and the abduction of political activists, particularly in ethnically diverse regions such as Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Additionally, the military has been involved in shaping the country’s foreign policy decisions, raising concerns about the extent of civilian government authority in determining Pakistan’s international relations.
Political analysts suggest that the relationship between Imran Khan and the powerful military soured when Khan pursued an independent foreign policy, refusing to align with any international blocs, particularly with regard to the Russia/Ukraine conflict and the shifting global power dynamics between the USA and China.
The country’s upcoming general elections, scheduled for October this year, have been overshadowed by criticism directed towards the military for allegedly exerting undue influence on the already fragile judiciary, thus delaying the electoral process. The military’s opposition stems from concerns that Imran Khan may return to power, which has created apprehension among certain segments of the population.
In recent developments, across cities and major highways in Pakistan, including in Lahore – Khan’s hometown – and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, hundreds of supporters of Imran Khan obstructed roads, prompting police to heighten security and prohibit public gatherings.
Witnesses reported that protesters in Karachi also blocked main thoroughfares, while in Islamabad, police resorted to using tear gas against demonstrators. Previous attempts to detain Khan from his residence in Lahore have resulted in violent clashes between his followers and law enforcement authorities.
In Pakistan, political turmoil is common, with no prime minister having completed a full term, and military rule dominating nearly half of the country’s history.
The country is presently grappling with an economic crisis, compounded by the pandemic and devastating floods that ravaged Pakistan last year. Despite the precarious state of affairs, there appears to be no external force exerting pressure on the Pakistan military to address their egregious human rights violations or restore the already tenuous democracy.
At a press conference held in Washington, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly acknowledged reports of Khan’s arrest but opted to refrain from offering substantive remarks. Blinken simply emphasised the importance of adhering to the rule of law and constitution in Pakistan.