Arrest of Imran Khan and the Military’s History of Ousting Political Leaders

By: Ali Sajad Mawlaee

The Pakistan Rangers arrested Imran Khan, the former Prime Minister and leader of the Pakistan TehreekeInsaf Party, in a contentious move. Khan was apprehended within the premises of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on charges of embezzlement in a case concerning the Al Qadir Welfare Foundation. Pakistan‘s Minister of Interior, Rana Sanaullah, declared that Khan had been arrested by the anticorruption department on charges of damaging public property after being warned multiple times to attend the court hearing regarding the transfer of land to the AlQadir Charity Foundation, of which Khan and his wife are likely trustees.

The senior members of TehreekeInsaf have mobilized the supporters of Imran Khan to march in the streets. In response, the Islamabad Police issued a statement warning that any disturbance or disorder will be suppressed and the perpetrators will be arrested. Fawad Ahmed Hussain Chaudhry, a senior member of the Pakistan TehreekeInsaf Party, tweeted that the Pakistan Special Service Group (SSG) had forcibly arrested Imran Khan, assaulting his lawyer in the process. According to Pakistani media reports, Imran Khan has been transferred to the AntiCorruption Bureau in Rawalpindi.

In April 2022, Imran Khan was removed from office by the Pakistani Parliament, sparking a political conflict between him and the government over control of Pakistan. Over the past year, Khan has been summoned to court multiple times, prompting his supporters to organize large demonstrations against the military and the current Pakistani government. Last year, Khan was wounded in a protest in Gujranwala, Punjab, prompting him to accuse the army and the government led by Shahbaz Sharif of attempting to assassinate him.

The Embezzlement of £190 Million

In 2018, the National Crime Agency (NCA) in England froze approximately £190 million of assets belonging to Malik Riaz, a prominent Pakistani businessman, and his family. This agency freezes money obtained through illegal activities such as money laundering and bribery and transfers it to the government in times of crisis after conducting an investigation. According to a comprehensive investigative report by Dawn, a Pakistani Englishlanguage newspaper, the NCA unfroze Riaz‘s money in collusion with Imran Khan and his Special Assistant on Financial Affairs, Shahzad Akbar. After numerous extended meetings with the NCA members, Akbar persuaded the agency to address the case by negotiating directly with Riaz without referring it to the court. The agreement with the NCA resulted in Riaz depositing the frozen money into the account of the Supreme Court of Pakistan as he was found to be responsible for seizing several thousand hectares of land in Karachi.

Riaz owns a large township, Bahria, in Karachi, as well as similar ones in Islamabad and Lahore. At a press conference, Akbar declared that the frozen money would be deposited into the government‘s account, but he did not explain the process for doing so. It appears that the frozen money was returned to Riaz instead of being deposited into the Pakistani government account, and in exchange, an unspecified amount of money was allocated to the accounts of the cofounders of the AlQadir Charity Foundations, such as Imran Khan, his wife Bushra Bibi, and other individuals. Furthermore, Riaz provided the aforementioned foundation with a large piece of land in the Sohawa area so that they could construct a building for the University of Al Qadir. It was expected that the university would have one thousand students, and Khan claimed that it would produce future leaders. However, currently, the university only has 35 students, and there is no indication of Khan‘s grand project being fulfilled.

After Khan was deposed in April 2022, Sanaullah established a committee in June 2022 to examine Khan‘s financial documents. The Pakistani AntiCorruption Bureau‘s investigation revealed the AlQadir Charity Foundation case to be a major one, resulting in Khan being accused of embezzlement and damaging state assets. This department repeatedly summoned Khan to court to explain the situation, but he failed to appear until he was apprehended by the SSG on May 9.

Previous Cases of Imran Khan

Khan had been previously summoned to court for a number of cases, the most significant of which was the Toshakhana case and his disrespect towards a female judge. He is also accused of selling some of the gifts he received during his tenure as Prime Minister, which were part of Pakistan‘s to court for a number of cases, the most significant of which was the Toshakhana case and his disrespect towards a female judge. He is also accused of selling some of the gifts he received during his tenure as Prime Minister, which were part of Pakistan‘s Toshakhana and national treasure. It is alleged that he sold an expensive watch given to him by Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, with the assistance of Farhat Shahzadi, also known as Farah Koki, who is a friend of Bushra Bibi.

In June 2022, a leaked audio tape of Farah Koki, in which she requested a diamond necklace from Riaz for Bushra Bibi, was brought to the media‘s attention by General Asim Munir, who was the head of Pakistan‘s InterService Intelligence (ISI) at the time and is currently the Chief of Staff of the Army. This incident was one of the primary causes of the animosity between Khan and Munir.

Tension with the Military

Pakistani political experts believe that Khan entered politics with the cooperation and support of the army, and his relationship with the army was initially in a good state. However, after Munir revealed the financial corruption of Bushra Bibi, Khan‘s relationship with the army deteriorated. He asked General Qamar Bajwa, the Chief of Staff of the Army, to remove Munir from his position and replace him with General Faiz Hameed. General Bajwa dismissed Munir from the post of ISI, making him the record holder of the shortest tenure in the history of Pakistan‘s ISI. Khan‘s relationship with the army further worsened when he attempted to appoint Hameed, who had been one of his allies in helping him rise in Pakistani politics, as the Chief of Army Staff instead of General Qamar Bajwa.

When General Munir was appointed Chief of Army Staff, Khan asked President Arif Alvi to oppose the decision. Khan had previously accused the army of being responsible for his injury in Gujranwala, claiming that they had been plotting to assassinate him. Over the past year, Khan has repeatedly held the Pakistan Army accountable for his dismissal, believing that they had orchestrated the judicial and financial cases against him. On Monday, May 8, Khan made a contentious speech in which he accused General Faisal Naseer, a senior ISI official, of having attempted to assassinate him twice, prompting a vehement response from the army, who declared that Khan‘s actions would be met with consequences. It appears that Khan‘s statements about the army may have been a factor in his arrest.

The Pakistan Army is the most powerful and influential institution in the political and governmental structure of Pakistan, with considerable authority. Conflict with the military in Pakistan has always been detrimental to politicians, as evidenced by the political history of Pakistan. Before Khan, many other prime ministers of Pakistan have been arrested, and this is not an isolated incident.

Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, and Imran Khan are among the former Prime Ministers of Pakistan who have been detained by the military. Additionally, Shahbaz Sharif, the current Prime Minister of Pakistan, was arrested for money laundering prior to his appointment.

Has Khan’s Story Come to an End?

Following Munir‘s appointment as Chief of Staff of the Pakistan Army, analysts believed that Khan‘s career was over. Khan had been embroiled in a dispute with the military for the past year, and as previously mentioned, such conflicts have not been successful in Pakistan. Throughout the country‘s political history, many prime ministers have attempted to reduce the military‘s influence in politics, but this has often had the opposite effect.

Political analysts have suggested that Nawaz Sharif and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto were more popular and powerful than Khan during their respective terms as Prime Minister, yet they were unable to reduce the military‘s interference, which ultimately led to Bhutto‘s execution and the imprisonment and exile of Nawaz Sharif. Khan‘s rise to power occurred in a unique political and social climate in Pakistan, where the two main parties (Muslim League and Hizb Mardom) had been significantly weakened. Khan has one last opportunity to attempt his luck in the upcoming election, although this is faced with numerous obstacles, particularly if Khan is able to be acquitted of the charges against him.

If he is successful in overcoming this challenge, will he be able to pass the military filter? His relationship with the army appears to be very strained and the army can no longer tolerate his presence in Pakistani politics. Furthermore, his allies in the army have been weakened, such as Hameed, who retired at a young age and is no longer remembered in the army. Nevertheless, it appears that Khan is nearing the end of his political career in Pakistan, and if he can survive the current cases, it will be a great success.