Imran Khan’s arrest and protests in Pakistan

Imran Khan’s arrest and protests in Pakistan
A supporter of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan. Source: ©AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary, 2023.


Julija Stavar

TEAM PAKISTAN Researcher, 

Global Human Rights Defence.

On May 9th, 2023, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested on new corruption charges during a court appearance related to the Toshakhana case. The charges are in relation to the Al-Qadir Trust case, which involves the former Prime Minister and his wife, Bushra Bibi. As a response to the arrest, his supporters took to the streets. Crowds blocked roads, clashed with police, set fire to different police, military, and state buildings, and stormed a radio station (Ahmed & Butt, 2023). According to Human Rights Watch (HRW, 2023), “Khan’s supporters around the country have used rocks, Molotov cocktails, and in a few cases, assault rifles, to attack police and have set fire to ambulances, police vehicles, and schools, and destroyed property”, while police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and charged at protesters with batons.

The authorities deployed the army in the capital of Islamabad and in other volatile regions of the northwest as the protests became more violent and internet access had been restricted in relation to the protests (Ahmed & Butt, 2023). More than a thousand people have been detained by the authorities all over the country and at least eight people have been killed during the clashes. The police also arrested other leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party for inciting violent protests after Khan’s arrest (Dawn, 2023). HRW called on the authorities to restrain the use of force and lift social media restrictions (HRW, 2023). 

After the turmoil, the Islamabad High Court ruled that Khan’s arrest was legal and that he can be held for eight days of questioning (Burney, 2023). This ruling has been challenged by his lawyers and taken to the country’s Supreme Court. In the latest developments, the Court declared on May 11th, that the arrest of Imran Khan was unlawful and ordered to release him (Pakistan Today, 2023).

Sources and further readings:

Ahmed, M. & Butt, R. (2023, May 11). Pakistan deploys troops to halt unrest after ex-Prime Minister Khan is ordered held on new charges. AP News. Retrieved May 11, 2023, from 

Burney, U. (2023, May 9). Imran Khan arrested from IHC; court deems ex-PM’s arrest legal. Dawn. Retrieved May 11, 2023, from

Dawn. (2023, May 11). PTI leaders, including Qureshi, arrested for ‘inciting violent protests’: Islamabad police. Dawn. Retrieved May 11, 2023, from 

HRW. (2023, May 11). Pakistan: Excessive Force against Violent Khan Protests. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved May 11, 2023, from 

Pakistan Today. (2023, May 11). Declaring arrest ‘unlawful’, Supreme Court frees Imran. Pakistan Today. Retrieved May 11, 2023, from