10 May: The arrest of former prime minister Imran Khan has sparked a wave of protests and violence across Pakistan, forcing the army to intervene and take control of the law and order situation in Islamabad, Punjab, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Khan, the chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), was detained on Tuesday outside the Islamabad High Court, where he was supposed to appear in a graft case. His followers accused the military establishment of staging a coup against him and demanded his immediate release.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets and rallied outside military installations, General Headquarters (GHQ) Rawalpindi, and Frontier Corps offices, shouting slogans against the army chief and the government. They also blocked roads, set tires on fire, and clashed with security forces in several cities.
The Interior Ministry on Wednesday authorised army deployment in Islamabad, Punjab, and KP to deal with the worsening law and order situation across the country. The ministry said that the decision was taken under Article 245 of the Constitution and Section 4 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, which allow the federal government to authorise the armed forces to act in aid of civil power.
The provincial governments would work out the exact number of troops, date, and area of deployment in consultation with Military Operations Directorate, General Headquarters. The ministry also warned that anyone who incites violence or disrupts public order would be dealt with according to law.
The army deployment has raised questions about the state of democracy and civilian supremacy in Pakistan, which has a history of military coups and interventions. PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi expressed shock at the move and asked why the army was not available for election duty when the Supreme Court had sought security personnel for it.
He also alleged that Khan was being victimised for his stance against corruption and for exposing the role of the military establishment in rigging the 2023 general elections. He said that PTI would continue its peaceful struggle for democracy and justice.
The opposition parties have also condemned Khan’s arrest and called for his release. They have accused the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of being a puppet of the army and of violating the constitution and human rights.
The international community has expressed concern over the situation in Pakistan and urged all sides to exercise restraint and respect the rule of law. The United States, China, India, and other countries have called for dialogue and peaceful resolution of the crisis.
Pakistan is a nuclear-armed country with a population of over 200 million people. It is facing multiple challenges such as terrorism, poverty, inflation, energy crisis, and regional conflicts. The current political turmoil has added to its woes and raised fears of instability and violence.
Some analysts have warned that Pakistan is heading towards a civil war as the political divide between Khan’s supporters and opponents deepens. They have said that the army’s intervention could further alienate the masses and fuel resentment against the military establishment. They have urged all stakeholders to find a political solution to avoid further bloodshed.