The Platform

Imran Khan supporter being detained in Peshawar. (Asianet-Pakistan)

Political disagreements in Pakistan should be settled at the ballot box and not on the streets.

Pakistan’s political climate is very volatile and uncertain after the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan on corruption charges. While he was eventually released, his supporters have staged violent protests across the country, attacking military installations, burning public property, and clashing with the police. Several people have been killed and hundreds more have been arrested.

The current political crisis could push Pakistan into further political unrest and instability, as well as damage its relations with its allies and neighbors. The United States, which has been trying to revive its partnership with Pakistan after the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, has expressed concern over the violence and urged all sides to respect the rule of law. China, Pakistan’s closest ally and economic partner, has also called for calm and stability.

It is possible that Imran Khan could be arrested again, which would lead to further violence. It is also possible that he could face more indictments or possible convictions, which could trigger more violence.

Increasingly violent protests by members of Khan’s political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, will harm Pakistan in several ways.

Violent clashes between Khan’s supporters and security forces will weaken the stability of the country, which is already facing multiple challenges such as a crumbling healthcare system, extremism, and poverty.

Clashes will further alienate Pakistan’s allies and partners, such as the U.S. and China, who have expressed concern over the violence and have urged dialogue.

Populist movements like Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Donald Trump’s MAGA, and Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, use violence and intimidation as a means to achieve their political goals. These movements appeal to the emotions and grievances of their supporters, often using nationalist, religious, or anti-establishment rhetoric.

These movements have charismatic leaders who claim to represent the will of the people and challenge the corrupt elites. They also tend to reject democratic norms and institutions, such as the rule of law, separation of powers, a free press, and the rights of minorities.

Additionally, populist movements portray themselves as the defenders of a pure and oppressed group against a corrupt and oppressive elite. These movements seek to undermine the democratic system and the rule of law and to establish a totalitarian regime based on their ideology. These movements use propaganda and misinformation to spread their message and discredit their opponents. Lastly, they exploit the economic and social grievances of their supporters and promise them a better future under their leadership.

Most people would agree that it is not okay for supporters of Imran Khan to use violence to express their unhappiness with his arrest. Rather than achieve any positive changes, further violence will only lead to more deaths, as well as damage to public and private property.

As a political analyst, I would say that the violence against government institutions after Imran Khan’s arrest is a serious challenge to the stability of Pakistan. It reflects the deepening rift between the civilian and military leadership and a lack of trust and confidence in the judicial system and the rule of law.

The ongoing clashes should be condemned by Imran Khan himself, political parties, and civil society groups, as it undermines the democratic process and the constitutional order in Pakistan. It also damages the image and reputation of Pakistan in the eyes of the world, especially when the country is facing an economic crisis. The last thing Pakistan needs is for the military to follow its previous strategy and declare martial law and eventually allow elections to take place.

Awais Abbasi is an independent researcher and holds a graduate degree in Political Science from the University of Bristol. He is currently​ serving as visiting fellow at the University of South Asia.