In a dramatic turn of events, former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested by the paramilitary forces from Islamabad High Court (IHC) premises on Tuesday. The custody comes during escalating tensions between Khan and the country’s powerful institutions.

Khan getting arrested from IHC's premises
Khan getting arrested from IHC’s premises

Khan was ousted in April 2022 after a vote of no confidence, for which he has largely blamed the former Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, for orchestrating the “regime change.” Since his removal from office, several cases have been filed against him, as reported by various media outlets.

In November 2022, the situation took a dangerous turn when Khan survived an assassination attempt during a rally in Wazirabad, Punjab. Khan recently made the claim that senior ISI personnel were behind the assassination attempt, but the military categorically denied these allegations.

In response to Khan’s arrest, the federal police have imposed section 144 in the capital city of Islamabad, prohibiting any public gatherings or protests.

The Pakistan National Accountability Bureau has stated that Khan’s arrest is related to a corruption case involving 190 million pounds. The details of the allegations are yet to be fully disclosed, and it remains to be seen how this case will unfold. Right now, another pressing concern is the impact this episode will have on Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Imran Khan is currently the country’s most well-liked and charismatic leader, successfully projecting Pakistan’s interests on the international stage. The immediate repercussions of this arrest will probably significantly impact Pakistan’s political and social structure.

Political Instability

Imran Khan’s arrest triggered political instability within Pakistan, seriously affecting its morale and foreign policy. The allegations of corruption against Imran Khan are serious. Yet, the timing and events of his custody have prompted many to question its motivations, which could increase the distrust between the civilian population and the powerful government institutions. He has an emotional tie to his supporters. With high relations between Imran Khan and the government institutions, many of his followers perceived his arrest as a politically motivated measure. This notion is fueling more unrest and instability across the nation. Political upheaval often leads to a lack of coherent decision-making and weakens a nation’s position on the international stage.

Loss of Soft Power

Imran Khan has been a major contributor to Pakistan’s soft power, and his arrest will be a major blow to Pakistan’s image. The arrest will also damage Pakistan’s relations with other countries, as it will be seen as a sign that Pakistan is not a stable and democratic country.

The loss of Pakistan’s soft power will have a number of negative consequences. It will make it more difficult for Pakistan to attract foreign investment and trade. It will also make it more difficult for Pakistan to get its way in international negotiations. In addition, the loss of soft power will make it more difficult for Pakistan to counter the negative effects of its hard power, such as its nuclear weapons program.

Weakened Counterterrorism Efforts

Imran Khan has been instrumental in promoting Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism and extremism. His custody might potentially hinder these efforts because maintaining effective counterterrorism operations depends on continuity and stability in the nation.

Terrorist groups may see Khan’s arrest as a sign of weakness and an opportunity to launch more attacks. This could lead to an increase in terrorist activity in Pakistan.
The events might create a power vacuum in Pakistan. This could be exploited by terrorist groups, who could use the chaos to launch attacks or gain territory.

Uncertainty in Bilateral Agreements

Imran Khan’s detention could create tension regarding the fate of the bilateral agreements negotiated. Other countries can question the legitimacy of these agreements, leading to potential delays or renegotiations that could negatively impact Pakistan’s foreign policy objectives.

Strained Diplomatic Relations 

Khan has been instrumental in shaping Pakistan’s foreign policy, especially in developing ties with countries like the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, China, Türkiye, Russia, and Afghanistan. His imprisonment might jeopardize enduring diplomatic relations.

His arrest could strain diplomatic relations between Pakistan and other countries in a number of ways. First, it could be seen as a sign of political instability in Pakistan, making other countries less likely to invest in or cooperate with Pakistan. Second, it could damage Pakistan’s reputation with other countries, making it more difficult to build trust and cooperation. Third, it could lead to protests or other demonstrations against Pakistan in other countries, which could further strain relations.

Supporters of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan, carry placards displaying a portrait of Khan during a protest, demanding release of the Chairman PTI
Supporters of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan, carry placards displaying a portrait of Khan during a protest, demanding the release of the Chairman PTI.

Imran Khan’s absence from the political arena could undermine Pakistan’s negotiating position since he is the most appreciated leader in the nation. His charisma and influence would only be possible to replace, which might make Pakistan harder to reach agreements and achieve its foreign policy goals.

Regional Security Concerns 

Khan’s custody might lead to political turmoil and a power vacuum in Pakistan, compromising regional security. Instability in Pakistan has the potential to spread to its neighbors, escalating already-existing tensions and endangering regional stability.

Human Rights Criticism

The arrest of Imran Khan could intensify international criticism of Pakistan’s human rights record as his detention is perceived as a violation of political rights and an infringement on freedom of expression. In that case, it may increase scrutiny and condemnation from international organizations, governments, and human rights advocates.

Diminished Democracy

Imran Khan’s confinement would undermine the democratic process in Pakistan, casting doubts on the country’s commitment to upholding political rights and democratic values. It would lead to a deterioration of Pakistan’s image as a democratic nation and weaken its standing in international forums.

The arrest of the former Prime Minister was unprecedented and has made the political climate even more volatile. It has also created a need for all political actors in Pakistan to prioritize security and peace for the greater good before personal ambitions.  All sides should engage in peaceful and profitable dialogue to find solutions that benefit the people of Pakistan.

Political leaders, judicial authorities, and citizens must put unity, communication, and a peaceful settlement to any issues that may arise first in these challenging circumstances. We can all contribute to a peaceful future for Pakistan by having productive dialogue, promoting an inclusive political environment, and upholding the rights and liberties of every person.

Maintaining a peaceful atmosphere is essential since the international community is keenly monitoring the situation in Pakistan. All Pakistanis right now must commit to making Pakistan a prosperous and democratic society that respects the rule of law and human rights.


**The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views or position of The Diplomatic Insight. The organization neither endorses nor takes responsibility for the content of this article and its accuracy.