Political tensions intensify in Pakistan amid massive protests

The police have resorted to heavy use of tear gas shelling, resulting in violent clashes. The political crisis in the country has only worsened with the ousting of Imran Khan as the Prime Minister in a no-confidence-motion last month

May 27, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Pakistan political crisis
(Photo: Anadolu Agency)

On May 25, violent clashes erupted in Pakistani capital Islamabad after the security forces resorted to heavy tear gas shelling and use of rubber bullets to suppress an anti-government rally demanding fresh elections. The political crisis in the country has only worsened with the ousting of Imran Khan as the Prime Minister in a no-confidence-motion last month.

A large number of anti-government protesters were part of the rally moving towards Islamabad’s D-Chowk on Wednesday to stage a sit-in protest. However, the protesters were violently intercepted by the security forces that were deployed in the thousands to block all major entries into the city to prevent protesters from converging in the national capital. 

The Shehbaz Sharif-led government has been conducting raids and mass arrests of his opponents. At least 1,700 people have been arrested and houses of 4,500 protesters have been raided, the Interior Ministry confirmed. 

Condemning the heavy use of force by the police which has resulted in three casualties, Khan gave the authorities an ultimatum of six days to dissolve the National Assembly and announce dates for fresh elections in the country. “No amount of state oppression and fascism by this imported government can stop or deter our march,” he tweeted.

If the government fails to announce the dates of the elections in June, Khan, chairperson of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, stressed that he will march back to Islamabad with millions of people for this demand. 

Meanwhile, the recently appointed government has termed the dharnas (protests) as politics “detrimental for the progress and stability” of the country.

While unrest brews across Pakistan, the ongoing situation in the capital continues to remain volatile. The federal government has sought the support of the army to deploy hundreds of troops in Islamabad’s Red Zone to safeguard the critical buildings of the government such as the parliament, presidency and secretariat amidst the political crisis.

Political observers are hinting that heavy use of force against the protesters is creating a rift between the security agencies and the people, further increasing the resentment towards the current regime that was responsible for ousting Khan. Ever since his removal six weeks ago, Khan has mobilized the populace on a foreign conspiracy narrative playing anti-US politics, and has carried out huge rallies and demonstrations across the country.

Meanwhile, the economy remains in bad shape as prices of basic commodities including cooking oil, grains and sugar are on the rise. The people of Pakistan find themselves sandwiched between the growing economic crisis and major political uncertainty with no resolution in sight.