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Pakistan Considers Banning Imran Khan's PTI: Why Attack a Sinking Ship?

While the Pakistan government tightens the screws, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf remains rife with internal turmoil.

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After Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf Party conducted widespread protests which saw violence and loss of life, prompted by Khan's arrest, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said that the government was considering banning the party.

The government is tightening the screws on the PTI, specifically over the events of 9 May, which was strongly condemned by Pakistan's civil and military leadership and was further declared a "Black Day."

Meanwhile, Khan is battling corruption charges that he calls frivolous while remaining embroiled in an intense confrontation with Pakistan's all-powerful military.

The government had previously said that banning the party was the only solution but clarified that concrete measures have not been taken yet.

However, the defence minister's statement, which said that a "review" is underway, is the first concrete measure Pakistan has seen against the Tehreek-e-Insaf.

Over the course of this explainer, we answer three questions:

  • Why is the Pakistan government considering a ban on the Tehreek-e-Insaf?

  • How likely or unlikely is the ban?

  • Why is the government continuing to attack the PTI's sinking ship?

Pakistan Considers Banning Imran Khan's PTI: Why Attack a Sinking Ship?

  1. 1. Why Is the Government Considering a Ban? What Happened on 9 May?

    On 9 May, Khan was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau at the Islamabad High Court in connection with the Al Qadir Trust case, triggering widespread protests throughout the country.

    The 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician claimed that his arrest was orchestrated by the Pakistan Army due to his anti-military stance, and his supporters subsequently targeted more than a dozen military installations across the country, including the General HQ of the Pakistan Army.

    The official residence of the Corps Commander in Lahore, also known as Jinnah House, was set on fire. Mobs also targeted the Punjab Province's Mianwali airbase, the Inter-Services Intelligence building in Faisalabad and the army HQ in Rawalpindi.

    In Islamabad, protesters blocked one of the main highways, set fires, and engaged in stone-throwing and in Peshawar, set fire to the Radio Pakistan premises. The protests were marred by numerous clashes.

    Following these events, the military issued three statements. The first statement described the day as a "dark chapter" in the country's history.

    But subsequently, in a more decisive move, the military's top brass declared their commitment to bringing the arsonists responsible for attacking both civil and military installations to justice.

    It stated that the perpetrators would be tried under relevant laws, including the Pakistan Army Act and Official Secrets Act, a move which has been slammed by rights groups around the world.

    Expand
  2. 2. What Does It Look Like for the PTI? How Likely Is a Ban?

    Following the attacks on military offices and buildings, the government announced that it was considering a ban on Imran Khan's PTI party.

    However, Khan later adopted a more conciliatory approach and expressed his willingness to engage in talks with Sharif's administration and the military. He proposed the formation of a committee to engage with anyone in power."

    According to Zulfi Bukhari, Khan's aide, it is crucial to have a political dialogue involving all parties. Speaking to Bloomberg, he emphasised on the need for a meeting between the chief of army staff and Imran Khan to discuss a way forward.

    Defence Minister Khawaja Asif stated that the PTI had attacked the foundations of the state, which was unacceptable. He mentioned that the possibility of banning the PTI was being considered, with the final decision requiring approval from the parliament.

    A similar sentiment was previously imbibed by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, who had advocated for banning the PTI as the only solution. He accused Imran Khan of recruiting, organising, training, and arming individuals across the country over the span of a decade.

    Sanaullah also criticised the Supreme Court and Islamabad High Court for granting exceptional relief to Khan in several cases.

    PTI party lawyer Ali Zafar stated that any attempt to ban the party would be challenged in court. He argued that the actions of a few individuals should not be attributed to the entire party.

    Punjab Province-based activist Sadia said that outlawing the PTI could serve as a dangerous precedent and added, "We don't like the PTI's way of politics but would strongly oppose banning any political party."

    "Such a ban would spell disaster for the democratic future of the country," she added.

    Meanwhile, Tauseef Ahmed Khan, a Karachi based activist, told DW that that a ban will effectively help the Army further consolidate its position.

    "It will create an impression that democratic parties are not capable of dealing with political crises," Khan suggested, adding that the country's political stakeholders must "avoid banning the PTI" and resolve their issues "through dialogue."

    Expand
  3. 3. Is It Worth Attacking a Sinking Ship?

    It's important to remember that while the Pakistan government, allegedly alongside the Pakistan Army, continues its attack against Imran Khan and the PTI, the party is also battling internal turmoil triggered by a series of resignations.

    At least 33 PTI members have resigned from the party or stepped down from their posts, most of whom have condemned the violence and distanced themselves from Khan and his actions.

    One of the largest blows to the PTI was the resignation of Vice Chairman Fawad Chaudhry, who was one of several party leaders sent to jail in connection to the 9 May violence, and said that he is "parting ways with Imran Khan."

    Prior to his resignation, Chaudhry had "unequivocally condemned the 9th May incidents."

    Former Human Rights Minister and senior leader Shireen Mazari, who was arrested five times in 14 days over accusations of inciting the violence after Khan's arrest, also condemned the incident and resigned from the party after her release from jail.

    Other PTI leaders on the list include former Finance Minister Asad Umar, who stepped down from party post after his release, former Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, Malik Amin Aslam, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa member Nadia Sher.

    Meanwhile, Khan reacted to the resignations by hinting at pressure from Pakistan's institutions.

    Taking to Twitter, he said, "We have heard about 'forced marriages' in Pakistan, but for Tehreek-e-Insaaf, a new miracle of 'forced separations' has been introduced."

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Why Is the Government Considering a Ban? What Happened on 9 May?

On 9 May, Khan was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau at the Islamabad High Court in connection with the Al Qadir Trust case, triggering widespread protests throughout the country.

The 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician claimed that his arrest was orchestrated by the Pakistan Army due to his anti-military stance, and his supporters subsequently targeted more than a dozen military installations across the country, including the General HQ of the Pakistan Army.

The official residence of the Corps Commander in Lahore, also known as Jinnah House, was set on fire. Mobs also targeted the Punjab Province's Mianwali airbase, the Inter-Services Intelligence building in Faisalabad and the army HQ in Rawalpindi.

In Islamabad, protesters blocked one of the main highways, set fires, and engaged in stone-throwing and in Peshawar, set fire to the Radio Pakistan premises. The protests were marred by numerous clashes.

Following these events, the military issued three statements. The first statement described the day as a "dark chapter" in the country's history.

But subsequently, in a more decisive move, the military's top brass declared their commitment to bringing the arsonists responsible for attacking both civil and military installations to justice.

It stated that the perpetrators would be tried under relevant laws, including the Pakistan Army Act and Official Secrets Act, a move which has been slammed by rights groups around the world.

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What Does It Look Like for the PTI? How Likely Is a Ban?

Following the attacks on military offices and buildings, the government announced that it was considering a ban on Imran Khan's PTI party.

However, Khan later adopted a more conciliatory approach and expressed his willingness to engage in talks with Sharif's administration and the military. He proposed the formation of a committee to engage with anyone in power."

According to Zulfi Bukhari, Khan's aide, it is crucial to have a political dialogue involving all parties. Speaking to Bloomberg, he emphasised on the need for a meeting between the chief of army staff and Imran Khan to discuss a way forward.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif stated that the PTI had attacked the foundations of the state, which was unacceptable. He mentioned that the possibility of banning the PTI was being considered, with the final decision requiring approval from the parliament.

A similar sentiment was previously imbibed by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, who had advocated for banning the PTI as the only solution. He accused Imran Khan of recruiting, organising, training, and arming individuals across the country over the span of a decade.

Sanaullah also criticised the Supreme Court and Islamabad High Court for granting exceptional relief to Khan in several cases.

PTI party lawyer Ali Zafar stated that any attempt to ban the party would be challenged in court. He argued that the actions of a few individuals should not be attributed to the entire party.

Punjab Province-based activist Sadia said that outlawing the PTI could serve as a dangerous precedent and added, "We don't like the PTI's way of politics but would strongly oppose banning any political party."

"Such a ban would spell disaster for the democratic future of the country," she added.

Meanwhile, Tauseef Ahmed Khan, a Karachi based activist, told DW that that a ban will effectively help the Army further consolidate its position.

"It will create an impression that democratic parties are not capable of dealing with political crises," Khan suggested, adding that the country's political stakeholders must "avoid banning the PTI" and resolve their issues "through dialogue."

0

Is It Worth Attacking a Sinking Ship?

It's important to remember that while the Pakistan government, allegedly alongside the Pakistan Army, continues its attack against Imran Khan and the PTI, the party is also battling internal turmoil triggered by a series of resignations.

At least 33 PTI members have resigned from the party or stepped down from their posts, most of whom have condemned the violence and distanced themselves from Khan and his actions.

One of the largest blows to the PTI was the resignation of Vice Chairman Fawad Chaudhry, who was one of several party leaders sent to jail in connection to the 9 May violence, and said that he is "parting ways with Imran Khan."

Prior to his resignation, Chaudhry had "unequivocally condemned the 9th May incidents."

Former Human Rights Minister and senior leader Shireen Mazari, who was arrested five times in 14 days over accusations of inciting the violence after Khan's arrest, also condemned the incident and resigned from the party after her release from jail.

Other PTI leaders on the list include former Finance Minister Asad Umar, who stepped down from party post after his release, former Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, Malik Amin Aslam, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa member Nadia Sher.

Meanwhile, Khan reacted to the resignations by hinting at pressure from Pakistan's institutions.

Taking to Twitter, he said, "We have heard about 'forced marriages' in Pakistan, but for Tehreek-e-Insaaf, a new miracle of 'forced separations' has been introduced."

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Imran Khan 

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