Pakistan’s political crisis continues unabated. The arrest of former prime minister Imran Khan, the ensuing protests by his supporters, and the crackdown by law enforcement highlight once again the unstable and cyclical nature of Pakistan’s politics.
Imran Khan was picked up by the para-military Rangers for failing to join a corruption investigation involving an alleged land transaction against money owed to the state by property tycoon Malik Riaz. As PTI supporters protested in cities across the country it appeared that for the first twenty-four hours the Pakistani state simply allowed them to ‘let off steam.’
As an editorial in Dawn noted, “the nature and locus of the protests that broke out following Mr Khan’s arrest yesterday signal that public anger is also directed at the military. Video footage recorded at various protests suggested that the people were angry enough to cross lines no one dared cross before.”
While people have a right to protest, it must be done non-violently. Violence and confrontation are never the answer to political challenges, especially not when Pakistan’s economy is on the ventilator and the Pakistani Taliban is still attacking the state.
As many on social media stated, other political leaders have been arrested – almost every Pakistani civilian prime minister has been arrested – but their supporters protested peacefully unlike the PTI cult-followers who Samson-like seek to destroy everything in the name of their Messiah.
Finally, as the editorial in Dawn warned, “The events of the last 13 months have seen the military’s past — especially with respect to its political meddling — rapidly catching up with it amidst Pakistan’s unprecedented polycrisis. No matter how strongly the current military leadership wants the public to forget its role in political engineering, it cannot simply wish away perceptions that have solidified over months and years.”