Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Syed Asim Munir has agreed to arrest Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case as a way to end his political career, Dawn reported.
Importantly, Khan directly blamed General Munir for the crackdown on him by the police and Pakistan Rangers, the paramilitary federal law enforcement agency.
The escalating “pro-Imran Khan” protests across Pakistan are pushing the country into a complete breakdown of law and order. Some analysts fear a civil war-like situation or, at worst, an emergency martial law to restore stability in the country.
The ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) coalition and the military establishment are working together to nab Imran Khan from his Lahore residence in Zaman Park.
According to a Dawn report, on March 14, Imran Khan called on his followers and workers of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party to gather outside their Zaman Park headquarters in Lahore to thwart the police’s attempt to arrest him. . Several Pakistani celebrities, lawyers and activists joined his supporters, expressing their anger on social media.
It is reported that the law enforcement agencies did not anticipate the violent resistance of PTI supporters outside Khan’s residence.
Recent developments have made two things clear: first, Imran Khan remains Pakistan’s most popular political leader, and would likely regain power if “free and fair” elections were held in the country.
Second, the military establishment has decided to imprison Khan or prevent him from running in future elections. Importantly, the Pakistan Army believes that Khan has damaged their institutional reputation after the public spat between PTI Chairman and former COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and therefore cannot be trusted anymore.
Since his ouster in April 2022, Khan has successfully built an “anti-army” narrative in Pakistan through his well-executed social media strategy, which he continues to use even amid ongoing protests.
Imran Khan is believed to be using various social media platforms to release videos, photos and messages in an attempt to draw national and international attention to his plight, playing the ‘victim card’.
Foreign media have also featured his interviews to highlight the ongoing political unrest and street violence in Pakistan.
Through his strong narrative and social media appeals against his imminent arrest, Khan has been very successful so far. The PDM government and its military backers are facing massive backlash on the internet against their “draconian” actions. More importantly, Khan directly confronted the military establishment by questioning their “neutrality” for sending Pakistan Rangers to play “unarmed” PTI protests.
Following a violent confrontation between PTI supporters and law enforcement agencies outside Imran Khan’s residence, the Lahore High Court (LHC) intervened on March 15, ordering a “one-day” halt to the Zaman Park police operation. This move has probably given Khan and his supporters a breathing space before the latest raid by law enforcement agencies to arrest the PTI chairman. Seizing an opportunity, Pakistan President and PTI leader Arif Alvi made a renewed offer to mediate between the warring political factions to resolve the situation peacefully, Dawn reported.
In an unexpected tweet from the country’s president, Alvi said: “I am deeply saddened by today’s events. Unhealthy politics of revenge. Poor priorities by the government of a country that should be focusing on the economic misery of its citizens. Are we destroying the political landscape? I am concerned about the safety and dignity of @ImranKhanPTI and all politicians. like”.
Alvi’s reaction came after Imran Khan posted several photos and videos on Twitter saying his ‘arrest’ was mere ‘drama’ as the real intention was to kidnap and kill him.
Also, in an allegedly leaked audio call, PTI chief Yasmin Rashid reportedly asked President Arif Alvi to “intervene” in the police operation against Khan. As President of Pakistan, Arif Alvi has the authority to investigate the possibility of invoking the provisions of constitutional emergency in the country. These provisions are enshrined in Part 10 of the Constitution of Pakistan, which has six articles from Article 232 to Article 237, Dawn reported.
Under Article 232, the President is empowered to declare a state of emergency in the event of internal disturbances beyond the control of any province.
In such cases, the proclamation must be presented to Parliament within ten days for approval by both Chambers.
Article 234 deals with the power of any province to impose an emergency in the event of a “breakdown of the constitutional machinery”.
In a worst-case scenario, Alvi could have considered invoking this article in Punjab, but he would have run afoul of the provincial governor, who is the leader of the rival Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party. . Generally, Alvi has the constitutional authority to review the implementation of emergency provisions in Pakistan. However, such a decision cannot be taken without the approval of the powerful military establishment and without calculating the long-term political implications for the PTI.
In conclusion, the violent confrontation between Imran Khan and the state authorities will escalate, creating a civil war-like situation in Pakistan.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)