The following mention appeared in The Express Tribune on May 12, 2023, at the following link
Imran Khan’s release following a brief detention on Thursday is seen as a major blow to the ruling alliance which was hoping to use the arrest to bolster its political capital but found itself on the defensive again, lamenting that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party once again got preferential treatment.
In a dramatic turn of events, the PTI chairman was arrested on May 9 from the premises of the capital’s high court only to be released on May 11 by the Supreme Court.
Rangers on orders from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had arrested Imran from the Islamabad High Court (IHC), over allegations that he looted Rs50 billion from the national treasury along with a property tycoon and got the Al-Qadir University Trust registered on 450-kanal of land.
In between, protesters took to the streets, and key government and military buildings were attacked, ransacked and torched, at least six people lost their lives, dozens of others were injured and hundreds of PTI supporters were detained, including key PTI leaders.
Though the period between the arrest and release has highlighted the deepening political polarization in the country, some experts believe that the events of May 9 – which was declared as history’s dark chapter by the army – will have a negative impact on the PTI-establishment relationship.
Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat) President Ahmed Bilal Mehboob feels that “the events of 9th May following the arrest of Imran would have profound and adverse impact on the future relationship of the establishment and the PTI.”
The Pildat chief said the rampage of PTI supporters and their attack on military installations and properties will eventually harm the public standing of the party.
The inability of the security agencies for whatever reason to protect the symbols of the military might such as the GHQ, the Lahore Corpse Commander’s residence and other properties has also dented the image of the military’s invincibility.
“Unless the perpetrators are quickly identified, prosecuted and punished, the wounds inflicted on May 9 will not heal,” he said.
Commenting on the arrest of Imran, Mehboob said the manner of arresting the PTI chief was inappropriate and it was correct on the part of the IHC to initiate judicial enquiry against the police and other agencies responsible for that.
However, he added, the SC decision to release Imran would give an opportunity to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) and other ruling parties to claim that courts are applying double standards.
Abdul Moiz Jaferii, a lawyer and political analyst, said the government has been given an excuse to keep delaying elections. The development has also allowed the government to pit the establishment against Imran Khan directly.
Jaferii said the recent events have also proven to “the anti-Khan team” that they have very little options to shut him out of the political process because he is too popular to take a risk against. “If polls were held tomorrow, the PTI would make a clean sweep.”
Though the government has lost much of its political capital after coming into power by ousting ex-premier Imran Khan through a vote of no-confidence in April 2022, it is still struggling to take advantage of the situation by undermining Khan’s credibility.
As the country heads to the next polls, the power politics-based brutal struggle among the political forces has raised questions about the future of democracy in the country.