They arrived, looked around, realised they didn’t have anything, and then left. On Sunday, the news cycle saw (yet) another attempt, if one can call it that, to arrest PTI Chairman Imran Khan. The Islamabad Police arrived at Zaman Park to arrest Imran in connection with the Toshakhana case, but were informed by Senator Shibli Faraz that the former prime minister was unavailable; Faraz accepted the summons on Imran’s behalf. Imran appeared inside Zaman Park almost immediately after the police had left for a luncheon honouring those leaders and members arrested during the now-completed Jail Bharo Tehreek. He later addressed his supporters as well.
Shibli Faraz will face charges for misrepresenting facts, according to the Islamabad Police. This strange cat-and-mouse game is getting ridiculous. Is the government arresting Imran? We don’t know; if the interior minister is to be believed, ‘when the government wants to arrest Imran, Imran will be arrested.’ What about court orders? According to legal experts, the court had ordered Imran’s arrest, and the Islamabad Police were simply following court orders, as they are supposed to.
Regardless of his boasts about not being afraid of being arrested, one thing is clear: Imran Khan does not want to go to jail. From allegedly misrepresenting facts to law enforcement to rushing to court for bails at the drop of a hat, the PTI chair is adamant about avoiding incarceration. That is not difficult to understand, even if different people have different explanations for his reluctance. Some claim he is afraid for his life and believes he will be in danger if he is arrested. The sceptics argue that this is far more about Imran Khan’s fear of losing the spotlight, which he is now very used to and which he gets far more of even when out of power than those who are in power.
While some political observers believe that Sunday’s Zaman Park incident was the government testing the waters for an eventual arrest, it’s difficult to see what the government gained from it. For the untrained eye, Sunday appeared to be another day of victory for Imran and his PTI, while the government and its departments appeared indecisive and weak. This is not to say that an arrest would boost the government’s credibility, but the optics of one police force outside Imran’s house while the interior minister makes it appear as if the government didn’t even want to arrest him makes everything appear rushed and haphazard.
What is the government relying on as it prepares for the elections? Because so far, Imran Khan has come out on top in the face of all challenges, with a ready spin on everything—even the most damning cases like Toshakhana or foreign funding. If the government and its allies believe, as they should, that their strength lies in governance rather than narrative building, we would like to see a glimpse of that now. With the economic situation in shambles, it may take a miracle to turn public opinion around.