FILE PHOTO: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during an interview with Reuters in Islamabad, Pakistan June 4, 2021.
Saiyna Bashir | Reuters
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested at a court in the capital Islamabad by paramilitary officers Tuesday. Footage of the arrest shows dozens of paramilitary personnel surrounding Khan and pushing him into an armored vehicle before driving him away.
Khan, who heads Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), one of the country’s largest political parties, was at the Islamabad High Court to attend hearings for his bail applications concerning corruption cases against him, which he says are politically motivated.
The arrest follows recent tense exchanges between Khan, the former national cricket captain who became Pakistan’s prime minister in 2018, and the country’s powerful army.
After surviving an assassination attempt last November, Khan accused a senior military officer and Pakistan’s current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif of being behind the attempt.
An army spokesperson censured Khan this week for “highly irresponsible and baseless allegations against a serving senior military officer without any evidence,” to which Khan replied via video statement Tuesday: “This is my army and my Pakistan. I don’t need to lie.”
The military spokesperson warned of legal action if Khan keeps up his accusations. Concerning the possibility of arrest, Khan said, “If someone has a warrant, they should directly bring it to me. Bring the warrant, my lawyer will be there. I’m ready to go to the jail myself.”
The 70-year-old Khan, who remains hugely popular across the country of 230 million, was ousted from power in April of 2022 after a no-confidence vote by opposition lawmakers alleging corruption and unconstitutional actions. The charges were backed up by the country’s Supreme Court.
Ousted Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan (C) waves at his party supporters during a rally in Islamabad on May 26, 2022.
Aamir Qureshi | Afp | Getty Images
In October, Pakistan’s election commission passed a ruling barring Khan from holding office again, sparking outrage among his many supporters who claim foul play.
Khan and his supporters said last year that his ousting was a conspiracy planned by current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the United States, the latter of which has a long and complicated relationship with the Pakistani government. Sharif and Washington denied the accusations.
Khan’s legal troubles only seem to have made him more popular among his base, who believe he will make a comeback and become prime minister again in elections to be held later this year. Some political analysts see him as a likely favorite as well, and many expect the charges against him to be dropped.
Khan is one of the most famous figures in Pakistan and the wider South Asian region, known for leading Pakistan’s national cricket team to glory in the 1980s and 90s. He later transitioned to politics, founding the PTI in 1996.
Khan’s political career was marked by losses until his party, running on a populist platform, won the most seats in Pakistan’s National Assembly in 2018 and he led the governing coalition as prime minister.