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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Pakistan’s checkered history of premiers’ arrests, assassinations, oustings

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan is the latest in a string of such events as anti-corruption authority arrests him in corruption case on Tuesday

Pakistan’s 75-year political history has been marred by martial laws, arrests, assassinations, and the hanging of elected leaders amid strained civil-military relations.

Unlike India, Pakistan’s political landscape has remained uneven since the two independent nations came into being in 1947, following the end of British Colonial rule.

Liaquat Ali Khan, the country’s first Prime Minister and the second towering personality after founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah was assassinated on Oct. 17, 1951, in historic Liaquat Bagh (named after him after his assassination) in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

Read more: Crackdown against PTI racks up after Imran Khan’s arrest

Several other political leaders were disqualified under a controversial law introduced by the country’s first military ruler Gen. Ayub Khan in 1958.

Pakistan’s first democratically elected Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who came to power through the 1970 general election, was ousted by his army chief, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, on May 5, 1977.

He was later arrested in a murder case, and hanged on April 4, 1979, after the Lahore Court found him guilty, and his appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Two-time Premier Benazir Bhutto, the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had left the country days before the Lahore High Court sentenced her to three-year in prison in 1998.

She returned from exile in London to Pakistan on Oct. 18, 2007, and escaped a massive suicide bombing that killed nearly 150 people in the port city of Karachi.

She was assassinated in Liaquat Bagh Rawalpindi on Dec. 27, 2007, minutes after she addressed an election rally.

Prior to the assassination, her two governments were also dismissed by the presidents on corruption charges in 1990 and 1996.

Read more: Imran Khan arrested as per law: IHC

Three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who could not even complete a single five-year term, was arrested on Oct. 12, 1999, after his elected government was toppled by then-army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf. He remained in jail for over a year after being handed down a life term for his involvement in a hijacking case.

His brother and incumbent Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, and former Premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also remained in jail with him, although they were exonerated by the court in the hijacking case.

In Dec. 2000, the Sharifs left for Saudi Arabia in exile following a deal brokered by the then-Saudi King Shah Abdullah bin Abdelaziz.

They returned to Pakistan in 2007, months before Musharraf resigned following an impeachment threat.

Nawaz Sharif was imprisoned again after being disqualified by the Supreme Court in a case stemming from the whistleblower Panama Papers scandal in 2017 and later convicted by an anti-corruption court in a corruption case in 2018.

He was later allowed to go to London for treatment on “humanitarian grounds” in 2019 and he has remained there since.

His younger brother Shehbaz Sharif was also arrested twice between 2018 and 2020 in various corruption cases, though none of them were proven.

Former President Asif Ali Zardari has remained in jail for a collective period of 11 years for his alleged involvement in multiple corruption and murder cases from 1990 to 2004.

Most recently, he was arrested on June 10, 2019, in a corruption case and released on bail in December of the same year.

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who ruled the South Asian nuclear state from August 2018 to April 2022, is the latest in a string of such events in the country, as the anti-corruption agency arrested him in a corruption case on May 9, 2023.