PAKISTAN ON EDGE AS EX-PM CHARGED WITH CORRUPTION
The arrest of Imran Khan, former Pakistani Prime Minister, has triggered clashes between his supporters and paramilitary troops. Khan was arrested on Tuesday on charges of illegal acquisition of land and construction for a university, and on Wednesday appeared in court to face corruption charges relating to the sale of gifts received from foreign leaders while in office. Khan’s supporters have taken to the streets, vandalising homes of army personnel, and engaging in violent protests that have resulted in deaths and injuries. The country’s military, which has warned of severe retaliation against further attacks, has condemned the escalating protests.
A UNIQUE SITUATION
Khan’s significant public support and allegations that the government is colluding with the military to remove him from office have made the current situation in Pakistan “unique”. Tensions have brought the nuclear-armed country of more than 220 million people into unknown territory. The risks faced by Pakistan in this situation are numerous, including a serious challenge to the military’s image as a unifying force and the guardian of the state. The military’s image is important as it has led to a loss of public trust in the institution, which could, in turn, lead to instability and social unrest.
POLITICAL POLARISATION AND ECONOMIC CRISIS
Last year, Khan’s PTI party won local elections in the country’s most populous Punjab province, viewed as a litmus test for national elections. This, along with the soaring inflation which has resulted in ordinary goods becoming increasingly unaffordable, has fueled anti-establishment feelings, particularly among young individuals in Pakistan. The political polarization and economic crisis have placed the country at a critical juncture and the situation has the potential to become a permanent crisis.
The government has so far failed to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund to restart a $6.5 billion loan program that has stalled since November in an effort to keep Pakistan’s economy afloat. Pakistan’s future trajectory will primarily depend on how its leaders navigate the ongoing crises and whether they can find a way to address the people’s grievances and restore stability.
For more information, see:
· Al-Jazeera: Imran Khan: Pakistan on edge as ex-PM charged with corruption
· The Guardian: Imran Khan: Pakistan’s ex-PM jailed before elections
· CNN: Pakistan on edge after former PM arrested on corruption charges