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Imran Khan: Widespread protests possible as former PM’s arrest adds tension to Pakistan’s febrile political climate

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Imran Khan has always said the mounting cases against him are politically motivated and intended to stop him from running for election.

This new arrest could do exactly that.

It adds more jeopardy and tension to an already febrile political climate in Pakistan. And the timing is significant.

This week Shehbaz Sharif’s government announced a caretaker government will take over on 9 August, triggering the three-month march towards an election expected in November.

A man runs past a burning car set on fire by angry supporters of Khan in Peshawar. Pic: AP
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Imran Khan’s arrest in May sparked protests across Pakistan. Pic: AP

The last time Mr Khan was arrested back in May, it sparked widespread protest and clashes between his supporters and the police.

Military installations were attacked, a rare moment in the nation that illustrated the depth of anger.

Since then, many of Mr Khan’s PTI members have been arrested or left the party.

With the former cricket star facing more than 150 charges, there has been a sense of inevitability that he would be arrested again and strong whispers in recent days that it was imminent.

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Who is Imran Khan?

There is a chance that once again the supreme court intervenes and Mr Khan’s legal team wins its appeal against the three-year sentence.

His lawyers say it is unconstitutional.

Mr Khan wasn’t in court this time to hear of his fate. This time, police moved in to arrest him at his house in Lahore.

A Khan supporters throws stones using a slingshot toward police officers in Peshawar
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Pakistan is braced for more protests over Imran Khan’s latest arrest

There is the possibility once again of widespread protest. He is no doubt a popular figure and he insists he would win an election.

The question is whether he continues to inspire enough support for people to risk taking to the streets in large numbers, knowing the risk that comes with it.

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