Imran Khan's rising popularity amidst nationwide protest
    Pakistani professor for Caliber.Az

    INTERVIEWS  22 May 2023 - 10:33

    Huseyn Safarov

    Ex-Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested outside the Islamabad High Court on May 9. The formal reason for the detention was an order from Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau (NAB), signed on May 1. According to the decree, Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi were suspected of multibillion-dollar financial fraud related to the illegal acquisition of land for the construction of the Al-Qadir University in the vicinity of Islamabad.

    On the very day of the ex-prime minister’s arrest, at the call of the leadership of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) (Movement for Justice) party, mass demonstrations spread throughout the country demanding the release of PTI leader Imran Khan.

    Soon the rallies turned into riots in all major cities of Pakistan. The next day, the army came to the aid of the police, unable to cope with the suppression of the protests. But the demonstrators were not going to disperse. However, just on May 10, the former prime minister’s lawyers found simultaneously several violations in the arrest.

    A petition listing these violations and requesting the release of Imran Khan was immediately submitted to the Supreme Court, which accepted it the second time. The Islamabad High Court declared the politician's arrest illegal, and on May 12 he was released, cancelling the NAB warrant.

    Despite the history of allegations of financial fraud, Khan, however, is still quite a popular politician in Pakistan.

    Professor Adam Saud, Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at Bahria University in Islamabad, explained the current internal political situation in Pakistan in an interview with Caliber.Az.

    Professor Saud recalled that Imran Khan has been in politics for many years and has gained popularity with many of his qualities.

    “After a vote of no confidence in Pakistan's parliament a year ago, Khan's popularity has only grown, and he has become practically the most famous leader in the history of the country. The protests across the country that erupted after his arrest show that this move by the authorities will have serious social and political consequences. The protests clearly reflect the attitude of society towards Imran Khan.

    And any repression of the protesters could exacerbate the problem and lead to a serious confrontation between the demonstrators and law enforcement agencies. The government and the PTI started a dialogue to reach a consensus for calling general elections [in all provinces], but could not reach it. I think that the current authorities should find a peaceful solution to the situation and resume dialogue with the PTI about the date of the elections in order to resolve this conflict. Of course, Imran Khan's party exercised its legal right and announced a nationwide protest - thus, the members of the party supported their leader. However, the ex-premier must urge and convince his supporters to resolve differences in a peaceful, legal way,” our interlocutor believes.

    The Pakistani pundit also noted that the arrest of Imran Khan received wide coverage in the international media.

    “The international community, including US and British diplomats, are calling on Pakistan to uphold the rule of law. The Chinese foreign minister, during his two-day visit to the country, also expressed hope that the political forces would come to a consensus,” he added.

    Professor Saud concluded by emphasizing that such political upheaval was predictable, as the steps taken by the PTI contributed to it. Meanwhile, he is confident that Imran Khan will continue his public activities.

    “The leader of the PTI party will continue to urge his supporters to take to the streets, accuse the government of usurping power and prepare for the elections, which, in his opinion, should be held ahead of schedule. The leader of Pakistan's main opposition force is inspired by his successes and is not going to back down,” Saud finalised.


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