Muted protests for ex-PM Khan end week of unrest in Pakistan


Published: 2023-05-15 10:40

Last Updated: 2023-09-28 23:03

Muted protests for ex-PM Khan end week of unrest in Pakistan
Muted protests for ex-PM Khan end week of unrest in Pakistan

A week of tumult in Pakistan ended quietly on Sunday as protests largely failed to materialize for former prime minister Imran Khan, whose arrest and brief detention this week sparked days of deadly unrest.

But more demonstrations could erupt in the coming days, with the opposition leader facing more court cases, pledging to restart campaigning, and an arrest embargo due to expire.

Khan -- a one-time cricket superstar -- was manhandled into custody on graft charges by paramilitary Rangers during a routine appearance at Islamabad High Court on Tuesday.

The arrest brought his supporters onto the streets with government buildings set ablaze, roads blocked and damage to property belonging to the army, which they blame for Khan's downfall.

On Friday, Khan was freed on bail after his detention was declared unlawful by the Supreme Court and claimed he was "treated like a terrorist".

Since being released, the 70-year-old -- still staggeringly popular after being ousted last April -- has vowed to continue campaigning for snap elections on Wednesday.

He also called for nationwide protests to take place on Sunday evening, but they largely failed to materialize in Khan's home city of Lahore, where he traveled after his release.

"I was ashamed to see that no one came out in our neighborhood, so I came out here to a main road to be seen," 48-year-old Lahore housewife Aisha Asif told AFP.

"We just want the country's betterment."

Khan, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party leader, has for months waged a campaign of defiance against the military in the countdown to an election due no later than October.

His arrest came just hours after he was rebuked for claiming senior officials were involved in an assassination attempt against him last year.

Pakistan's powerful military has directly ruled the country off and on for nearly half of its 75-year history, and continues to wield power over the political system.