Following various riots and protests throughout the country, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has been released on bail after a hearing in Islamabad’s High Court was held on May 12. The High Court granted Khan a two-week bail after stating on May 11 that Khan’s arrest was unlawful. Despite this decision, tensions are still flaring between Khan’s supporters and the police. Two Pakistani provinces requested military support to counter the rioting; soldiers were also deployed across the capital city of Islamabad. Internet access was also cut off throughout the country following Khan’s arrest. So far, ten Khan supporters have been reported dead (according to PBS), while Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) states around 50 Khan supporters have been killed. Spokesmen from the PTI said that protests would continue until Khan arrives safely at his home in Lahore, so violence and unrest are expected to continue. As of May 13, Khan reportedly made it to his home safely.
Khan’s arrest occurred on May 9 during a hearing for one of the 100+ court cases he has been charged in since he was ousted following a vote of no confidence from Pakistan’s Parliament. According to the National Accountability Bureau, Khan was arrested for corruption concerning the Al-Qadir University Trust. According to Reuters, the case claims that Khan used the trust (which was created by him and his third wife) to receive land as a bribe from a real estate developer, Malik Riaz Hussain. Khan claims that his arrest was politically motivated and stated that Army Chief Asim Munir is afraid he will be removed if Khan becomes prime minister; however, Khan said he would not remove him from his position.
The nature of the events surrounding Khan will impact the future of Pakistan. Regardless of the validity of the staggering number of charges against him, Khan remains immensely popular in Pakistan. A recent poll from Gallup Pakistan showed that 61% of Pakistanis gave Khan a positive rating. The poll also showed that 62% of Pakistanis blame the current economic instability on the Pakistan Democratic Movement and its policies. Another interesting revelation is that a majority of 61% of voters want Nawaz Sharif to return. Sharif is the longest-serving prime minister and served as PM for three different stints; however, he was disqualified from holding public offices and was sentenced to ten years in prison following a decision from Pakistan’s Supreme Court from the Panama Papers case.
Despite the shortcomings (both proven and unproven) of their favored politicians, most Pakistanis would support Khan as opposed to the current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Even so, most Pakistanis would rather have Shehbaz’s brother Nawaz. With such low support for the current government, Pakistan’s problems will likely continue, especially with Khan’s potential arrest date set two weeks from May 12. There will probably be no cessation of protests, rioting, and general instability as Khan’s popularity may lead him and his party to regain control of parliament.