Pakistan is witnessing a situation it has not seen in its entire history. The way the followers of a political leader reacted when he was arrested, by attacking public property, including military installations, gives an impression of a cult, rather than a political party.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan was arrested by paramilitary force Rangers outside Islamabad High Court on 9 May on corruption charges in the Al Qadir Trust case. In the days leading to his arrest, he had lobbed accusations and insults at certain military officers and had incited his followers to challenge the military in case of his arrest.
As soon as the news of his arrest spread, second-tier PTI leaders led violent mobs to cantonments throughout the country. According to news reports, in Lahore, a gang of PTI followers led by Dr Yasmin Rashid forced its way into Jinnah House, the residence of Corps Commander Lahore, where it ransacked the house, vandalised property and vehicles present on the premises and set room after room to fire to burn what they could not take with them. In Islamabad, a mob gathered in front of the Pakistan Army’s General Headquarters and forced its way through one of its gates.
In addition, PTI supporters damaged several other properties, including Radio Pakistan building in Peshawar, metro buses and stations in Islamabad, police vans in various cities, an Edhi ambulance and several KMC tankers in Karachi, a Frontier Corps public school in Dir, Swat interchange and even a cattle market that burnt over 100 animals alive. PTI leaders made Goebbels proud by claiming that violent activities were carried out by government and military operatives to malign their party.
History will never forgive Imran Khan for poisoning young minds and inciting them against the government and state institutions in pursuit of personal gain. He has done what Pakistan’s enemies couldn’t do in 75 years – drive a wedge between the people and the army. People cannot be fooled into thinking that this is a battle for power and not some high ideals of civilian supremacy or democracy. PTI ‘revolutionaries’ are not calling for reform. They have a single agenda, which is to free Imran Khan and install him back into power, no matter how corrupt he is.
It was utterly disappointing, but not surprising, that the Supreme Court (SC) declared Imran Khan’s arrest illegal after Islamabad High Court had deemed the arrest legal and an accountability court sent him on an eight-day physical remand. This is in line with the conduct of SC in a series of cases in which Imran Khan was let off the hook easily and the excesses of his followers were overlooked, while other political leaders were kept behind bars for months without a shred of evidence against them. SC has lost all semblance of impartiality and credibility.
If Imran Khan is innocent, then he should face the law and prove his innocence. If he is indeed a political leader, then he must condemn the violent activities of his followers. Otherwise, history will remember him as a cult leader who led his followers to destroy the country.