Forces surround Imran Khan’s home as political crisis escalates:
In Islamabad, Pakistani security forces have surrounded the residence of former Prime Minister Imran Khan in Lahore, marking an escalation in the ongoing political crisis that has gripped the country for more than a year.
The security forces’ actions prompted by Punjab Interim Information Minister Amir Mir’s demand for Khan to hand over a group of “terrorists” who authorities believe were involve in vandalizing and setting fire to army installations. These incidents followed the detention of Khan by paramilitary forces, a move that deemed illegal by the Supreme Court. Khan subsequently released.
The government set a 24-hour deadline for Khan to surrender the individuals in question, which expired on Thursday at 2 p.m. local time. As the deadline passed, Khan invited journalists to his residence to document the unfolding events.
During an interview with NPR via Zoom, Khan expressed his belief that the security forces intended to arrest or even kill him, a claim he has reiterated in recent days. However, he stated his refusal to go into exile, asserting his commitment to remain in the country until his last breath.
Pakistan has been in a state of crisis since April of the previous year, when the military indicated a withdrawal of support for Khan’s government, resulting in his loss in a parliamentary no-confidence vote. As the country’s most powerful institution, the military was seen as instrumental in propelling Khan to power initially.
Since then, Khan has engaged in street protests, legal challenges, and communication with his supporters through social media platforms. He has consistently demanded early elections, which analysts believe he would likely win.
However, Khan is currently facing numerous criminal cases, including serious corruption allegations. If found guilty, he would likely be disqualified from running for office again. Khan believes that this is precisely the objective behind the cases, frequently asserting that Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Asim Munir, and the government coalition aim to eliminate him politically, stating, “He, along with this 12-party coalition, has decided that whatever happens, Imran Khan can’t win the elections.”
In response, Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told NPR that Khan’s commitment to the state and Pakistan depends on his role in the government. Referring to the protesters who attacked military compounds, Asif characterized their actions as an attack on the state itself, emphasizing that it was not a mere political agitation but rather a protest against the country. He also pointed out that military installations have historically been targeted by external enemies, not by Pakistanis.
The Pakistani army announced earlier in the week that some protesters would face trials in secret military courts, a development that has raised human rights concerns and drawn condemnation from certain parliamentarians.
Security forces have also intensified their crackdown on Khan’s supporters and senior advisers. Some individuals, after released on bail, were immediately re-arrest outside courthouses. Khan described the situation as a “total banana republic” and warned that the country was heading toward outright martial law.
The defense minister argued that Khan’s supporters and advisers were being treat fairly, indicating that he did not support negotiations with Khan to resolve the crisis.
Pakistan’s military spokesperson has not yet directly addressed the media.
Prominent analyst Mosharraf Zaidi holds the military responsible for the current crisis in the country, citing their interference in the political system over the years. He emphasized the need for the military to seriously reconsider its actions.
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