Pakistan’s Precarious Position
Pakistan is currently in a precarious state following the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan on corruption charges by paramilitary troops. This has led to a surge of violent protests against the powerful military, which has traditionally held significant power in the country. The unrest has spread to several major cities, with crowds brazenly breaking into military properties and setting fire to the homes of army personnel. Pakistan has faced political instability, regime changes, and military coups since gaining independence in 1947, with the military often determining who remains in power.
The military in Pakistan has accused former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his supporters of attacking military properties and installations and raising “anti-army slogans,” which it says crosses a red line. In its first statement since Khan’s arrest, the military warned that any further attacks on the army or state installations will be severely retaliated against, with the full responsibility placed on the group attempting to push the country into civil war. Meanwhile, police have arrested six senior politicians from Khan’s party for inciting arson and violent protests, with more arrests expected. The crisis has erupted amid Pakistan’s acute economic crisis and soaring inflation, leading to fears about the country’s stability in an election year. Khan has claimed that his arrest is a move to prevent him from participating in the election, a claim that the government denies.
The tension between the military and Khan’s supporters had been brewing for months, and his arrest only made the situation worse. Protests erupted in Lahore and Peshawar, both strongholds for Khan, resulting in clashes between crowds and security forces. In Peshawar, hundreds of protesters set fire to the headquarters of Radio Pakistan. Officials report at least eight deaths and over 300 injuries in the clashes. More than 650 people have been detained in the province of Khyber Pakhunkhwa, while nearly 1,000 Khan supporters have been arrested in Punjab province.
To control the situation, private schools nationwide were closed, and mobile internet services were blocked, disrupting access to social media platforms and digital payment systems. Authorities in three provinces have imposed an emergency order prohibiting all gatherings, while the military has been called in to provide security assistance in Islamabad and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has referred to Khan’s supporters as “terrorists” and has warned them to “behave or face punishment.”