Using Coercive Tactics
Using coercive tactics the events of the past two days indicate that the state has broken its old pattern of keeping Imran Khan in check. First, a team from Islamabad Police was dispatched to Lahore on Sunday afternoon to arrest the PTI chief at his home in Zaman Park.
However, as large numbers of accused PTI supporters gathered around their leader’s home and engaged the party that had arrested them, they backed away from their usual “assurances” that Mr Khan was “unavailable”. We appear to be witnessing another ugly showdown between citizens and police as officers are once again dispatched to Mr Khan’s home to enforce an injunction upheld by the Court of Sessions despite Mr Khan’s request for it to be overturned.
It is difficult to understand why the head of the PTI simply did not appear in court to defend his case, as he has done in other cases. Fears for his safety may be justified, but if he had been able to appear before other courts he should have done so in Toshakhan’s case.
But while Mr Khan’s refusal to stand trial cannot be avoided, the authorities should also have exercised restraint. With the rule of law behind it, there was no need to stage such a big drama.
With tensions still running high around Mr Khan’s arrest, Pemra seized the opportunity to resume her role as a servant of political censorship. For the third time in nearly seven months, Khan’s speeches and interviews have been banned from being broadcast by TV stations.
A similar restriction was previously overturned by the Islamabad High Court on September 6, 2022 for violating fundamental rights. Another was quickly withdrawn by the PDM government in November for “contradicting democratic standards”.
The latest ban has been challenged in the Lahore High Court and we hope it will be resolved soon. Pemra has a habit of silencing political leaders. Similar bans were imposed on Nawaz Sharif and Altaf Hussain after they were declared undesirables by the establishment. Plans appear to be afoot to keep Mr Khan out of the public eye using coercive tactics.
With Mr Khan’s case pending Monday and the NAB also poised to pursue corruption allegations, it was hard to ignore the impression that the establishment and government didn’t know how to ‘handle’ Mr Khan should, without resorting to primitive tactics. But the state would do well not to overreact under pressure to shrink the PTI boss to his size.
As the election approaches, an attack on a great leader will only create more instability and tensions among citizens that the country cannot afford right now.