Dr. Tahseen Mahmood Aslam looks at a crucial happening
Arresting Imran Khan – After months of tension, the penny finally dropped. PTI’s redline was crossed resulting in chaos and mayhem across the country with the authorities shutting down Twitter and YouTube. This banning albeit temporary gave a field day to the social media that gushed out most incandescent rumours portraying that the country was all smeared in blood and burning in flames. To many observers the ever-increasing tug of war between the PTI and the army was taking a particular direction with both sides sizing each other up and waiting for an opportunity to strike. PTI leadership could see most doors getting closed on it and quite obviously raised the ante by zeroing in on the army leadership largely ignoring the political elements. Interestingly, the political alliance stuck to its intention of not taking a decisive punitive action against PTI particularly arresting its leadership and it soon became apparent to the army authorities that this was something they would be compelled to do. They waited but when the PTI witnessed its hopes pinned on judiciary slowly dying down and started strongly reacting, they clearly spotted their opportunity.
In another twist the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) termed Imran Khan’s arrest in Al-Qadir Trust case unlawful elaborating that the execution of NAB’s arrest warrant violated the petitioner’s right of access to justice and the sanctity and safety of the court as he had already surrendered to the court for seeking judicial relief against the action taken by NAB in the Al-Qadir Trust case. Though he was not set free but the court ordered him to be kept at Islamabad Police Lines guest house and he would not be considered a prisoner. Interestingly, he was allowed ten people to stay with him overnight. He was directed to appear before Islamabad High Court on 12 May at 11 am for hearing of his Writ Petition filed to challenge the NAB action against him in the Al-Qadir Trust case.
It was plain to see that it was the Rangers that affected IK’s arrest indicating that the incumbent coalition has little do with the arrest and not only that but it restrained itself from roundly condemning the PTI. The army was left with no recourse but to come out into the open and fielded the ISPR to project their point of view. The politicians had guessed the situation right as was proved by the nature and locus of the protests that broke out following IK’s arrest clearly signifying that public anger is directed primarily at the military as no one touched the politicians and their property despite never-ending propaganda mounted against their large property portfolios acquired through looting the state resources given at their disposal. Curiously, the anger of the people witnessed them crossing lines no one dared cross before particularly in the heartland cities such as Lahore and Rawalpindi. The events post IK’s arrest have amply brought to fore the realisation to the people about the military’s past especially with respect to its political meddling that has badly polarised the socio-political matrix.
Though the arrest of IK may possibly stem the rising ire of the people about the army but it has also, rather unwittingly, deeply fractured the historic compact between the people and the country’s armed forces. IK’s arrest actually has exacerbated the controversy about the army’s position and role in the country radically increasing distrust in them and the policies they dominate in the country. It is nothing to be surprised about that the current military leadership wants the public to forget its role in political engineering but is defying logic doing so as it is not such a simple method to apply and wish away negative perceptions solidified over years. By resorting to intimidating measures is of no lasting value as lessons of past point out sufficiently and they certainly are never an answer to political challenges particularly when the kind of economic crisis the country is currently experiencing compelling the people to find some way to vent their anger.
It will not be out of place to cast a glance towards the Al-Qadir Trust case that has been cited as the reason for nabbing IK. It is alleged in this respect that IK and his spouse Bushra Bibi accepted Rs.5 billion for laundering Rs.50 billion that was returned by the UK during the tenure of PTI’s government. Apparently it all began five years ago when the National Crime Agency (NCA) of the United Kingdom agreed to a settlement worth £190 million with the family of property tycoon Malik Riaz and the agency concerned suspected that these assets were acquired by illegal means. In the meanwhile Malik Riaz was accused of having illegally acquired thousands of acres of land on Karachi’s outskirts in district Malir and, as is the wont in Pakistan, the case ultimately landed in the Supreme Court. Malik Riaz offered Rs.460 billion as settlement dues by his real estate firm and his offer was accepted. The situation took an unexpected turn when Malik Riaz tweeted that the recovered amount by the NCA would go to the Supreme Court against the fine worth Rs.460 billion. In another twist, the money was transferred to the Supreme Court’s accounts instead of the government of Pakistan’s account and Shahzad Akbar, the PTI’s odd-man-out serving as Special Assistant to the PM insisted that the Supreme Court account is part of the government accounts. He also refused to entertain questions regarding the origin of the money and how it had come to be stashed away abroad citing confidentiality clauses between the parties involved in the case, including the UK.
Yet another surprise in this respect emerged when an audio was leaked of IK’s spouse Bushra Bibi whereby Malik Riaz’s daughter was heard talking about the supposed demands of a friend of Bushra Bibi asking for larger diamonds for providing some alleged favours from the PTI government. Just a week after the leak Rana Sanaullah accused IK and his wife of accepting Rs.5 billion and hundreds of kanals of land for protecting Malik Riaz’s money laundering bid. It was pointed out that Malik Riaz’s Bahria Town had donated hundreds of acres of land to Al-Qadir Trust, with the agreement bearing signatures of the real estate developer’s donors and Bushra Bibi who along with IK were the only trustees of the non-profit organisation. The minister added that another 240 kanals were transferred to Bushra Bibi’s friend Farah Shehzadi. To tighten the noose around IK the case was handed over to the NAB whose new director general is a retired 3-star army general with the details of the case mentioning that Bahria Town donated land measuring 458 acres, four marlas and 58 square feet situated at Jhelum for Al-Qadir Trust University. And so happened that when IK appeared before the Islamabad High Court in an unrelated case he was apprehended by Rangers personnel on behest of NAB.
His arrest came on the heels of the military’s rejection of accusations Imran made against ISI’s DG-C Maj Gen Faisal Naseer. Imran had accused the officer of involvement in the assassination attempt against him in Wazirabad though Imran doubled down on the allegations. IK was the target since after he left the office of the PM as he was subjected to many unsuccessful attempts, including a police raid at his residence in Lahore’s Zaman Park, to arrest him which he had managed to evade. He consistently complained of more than a hundred cases ranging from sedition to corruption, registered against him. On the day of arrest the IHC took notice of the event on the pretext that it was illegal to do so within the premises of the court and summoned virtually anyone concerned with law enforcement. After plenty of hot air released by the concerned judges, the decision given late in the evening declared the arrest legal. The Weekender
Dr. Tahseen Mahmood Aslam is an educationist with wide experience