Supporters of the Pakistani government will organise a rare sit-in to protest Imran Khan's release.May 15, 2023
Thousands of Pakistani pro-government supporters are flooding the main road leading to the country's capital to protest the release of former Prime Minister Imran Khan. The call to protest is a sign of escalating tensions between the judiciary and the government of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who replaced Khan in April 2022. The Pakistan Democratic Movement, an alliance of 13 political parties affiliated with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, is leading the protest call. The sit-in is expected to take place despite a ban on rallies and public gatherings that the government imposed in the wake of the crisis. Defense Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif accused the Supreme Court of siding with Ayman Khan, a former cricket star turned Islamist politician, and suggested the court take legal action against him.
Last Tuesday, Khan was arrested from a courtroom in Islamabad and dragged out by agents of the National Accountability Bureau on charges of accepting millions of dollars worth of property in exchange for providing benefits to a real estate tycoon. Supporters of Khan and his Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf party clashed with police, set fire to more than 100 police vehicles, and burned down government buildings and military facilities. Khan blames Sharif, the country’s military and Washington for his removal from power, saying it was part of a conspiracy to discredit him. Later in the day, Khan will appear before a top court in Lahore city to seek bail and protection from arrest in terrorism cases filed against him. Cash-strapped Pakistan is facing political turmoil due to stalled talks with the International Monetary Fund for the revival of a 2019 bailout.