Former Pakiston PM Imran Khan's residence under siege
A Pakistani political activist says he fears that his country is “slipping towards authoritarianism” and that civil unrest will continue to grow in the wake of the government’s confrontation with Imran Khan. Mr Khan, a famous former international cricketer turned politician, is the founder of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI). He served as Prime Minister of his country from August 2018 until April of last year, when he was removed from office, after his government lost a vote of no confidence over its handling of the economy.
Pakistan has since been ruled by a coalition government made up of the other two main political parties in the country – the Pakistan Muslim League (PLM) and the Pakistan Peoples Party.
The government has brought an array of criminal charges against its former Prime Minister.
The 70-year-old Mr Khan claims at least 85 cases have been filed against him across the country.
These include charges of corruption, terrorism, contempt of court, rioting and even blasphemy.
The standoff between Mr Khan and his political opponents reached boiling point in March, when police attempted to arrest him at his home in Lahore.
This sparked violent clashes between police and the former cricketer’s supporters camped outside.
Mr Khan told CNN that the government was attempting to arrest him as a “pretext for them to get out of (holding) elections”, which are due in October.
The claim was subsequently rejected by the information minister Mariyam Aurangzeb.
Mr Khan eventually made an appearance at court, only for the judge to cancel his arrest warrant following further violent clashes outside the judicial complex between police and his supporters.
Mirza Mueen, a Pakistani businessman in his early thirties, told the Express.co.uk that the present crisis was all about corruption.
He explained: “My understanding is that the current ruling elite is short of any solid narrative with which they can go to public and start their election campaign.
“This coalition government had many corruption scandals and cases against them.
“When the they ousted Imran Khan in April 2022, the very first thing that they did was to null and void all the corruption cases against them.
“So now they are afraid that if Imran Khan wins the election (which he obviously will if the election remains fair and square), then he will again open all corruption cases against them and they will get punished for the billions and trillions of rupees of corruption these parties did in the 40 years of their rule.”
As the the political confrontation escalates, concerns for the future of Pakistan’s democracy are growing.
The country has in the past been ruled by military dictatorships – perhaps the most famous dictator was General Zia-ul-Haq, who was in power from 1977 until 1988, when he was killed in a plane crash.
The most recent involvement of the military in Pakistani politics was in 1999, when the army took over the federal government and General Pervez Musharraf became the President.
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Although Mr Mueen does not believe there will be another military dictatorship, he does fear a creeping turn towards authoritarian rule and warns there will be further civil unrest in the weeks and months to come.
He said: “There is no chance of military dictatorship, but Pakistan is slipping towards authoritarianism.
“Unrest will definitely grow, as the youth is fed up of the corrupt elite and with the worsening economic situation.”
Mr Mueen added: “I am not affiliated with Imran Khan’s Political Party, but what I described is the sentiment of common Pakistanis like me.
“We have anger and anguish on our Establishment and corrupt politicians.”
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