Imran Khan supporters still affected by crackdown After one year

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When Imran Khan, the former prime minister, was forcibly removed from a courthouse by police over corruption charges on May 9, 2023, it sparked an unprecedented reaction in Pakistan.

Outraged supporters flooded the streets of cities nationwide, targeting structures linked to the influential military—a surprising turn against the establishment.

Imran Khan supporters still affected by crackdown a year later
Imran Khan supporters still affected by crackdown a year later

“When he was arrested, our hearts sank. We were crying and didn’t know what to do,” recounted Hasan, who pedaled to Lahore’s central market, a gathering place for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

By then, a lieutenant general’s residence in Lahore was already set ablaze.

In Islamabad, where Khan was detained, protesters tore down signs, set fires, and hurled stones. Numerous military monuments were defaced.

Imran Khan supporters still affected by crackdown a year later

The military swiftly dubbed May 9, 2023, a “Black Day,” denouncing the protests as an “attack on the army.”

A year later, many of Khan’s followers are still grappling with the scars, both physical and emotional, from that day.

Hasan was among hundreds arrested during the demonstrations. Many claim they protested peacefully and were unjustly detained and mistreated.

“We protested because we believed what happened to Imran Khan was unjust… We were telling the police, ‘Today, you have crossed the red line,'” Hasan said.

“Many Pakistanis have an emotional bond with Khan Sahib,” he continued, using a term of respect. Abrar, another supporter, vividly recalled leaving his home in Lahore immediately upon witnessing Khan’s arrest, feeling his leader shouldn’t be humiliated that way.

Khan, a revered cricket figure in Pakistan, led the national team to a World Cup win in 1992, earning adoration from his compatriots.

Critics argue Khan rose to power with military backing, an allegation both sides refute. The military’s significant influence over Pakistan’s politics has long been acknowledged.

Elected in July 2018, Khan was ousted via a no-confidence vote four years later. Just before the latest general elections, he faced several convictions, barring him from standing. Despite legal battles, he remains a polarizing figure in Pakistani politics.

During the elections, his party, denied its symbol and platform, fielded independent candidates, who emerged as the largest bloc but fell short of a majority.

The May 9 protests left at least 10 dead and hundreds injured, with estimated losses of billions of rupees.

Post-protest crackdowns were severe, with jailed protesters recounting abuse and anguish.

Former interior minister Rana Sanaullah portrayed the events as a continuum of PTI’s past protests, suggesting a struggle for dominance against the state.

However, a year later, political analysts believe Pakistan cannot progress until addressing protesters’ grievances.

Journalist Benazir Shah stressed the need for a transparent investigation to resolve lingering questions.

Yet, the military remains resolute in holding the protesters accountable, dismissing negotiation with what they deem an “anarchist group.”

Moving forward, the military demands an apology and commitment to constructive politics from the PTI, seeing it as the sole path to reconciliation.

 

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