(CTN News) – In a recent development underscoring the escalating political tensions in Pakistan, a prominent opposition leader with close ties to former Prime Minister Imran Khan has been arrested by the country’s top investigation agency.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a former foreign minister and key figure within the opposition, was apprehended on charges of exposing official secrets and jeopardizing state interests.
The arrest marks the latest episode in an ongoing power struggle between the outgoing administration of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his predecessor Imran Khan, who himself was imprisoned on corruption charges earlier this month.
The arrest was carried out by the Federal Investigation Agency, which cited evidence suggesting that Qureshi had revealed a confidential diplomatic letter last year, alleging that the United States played a role in Khan’s removal from power.
The content of the letter, which reportedly involved communication between a Pakistani ambassador in Washington and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, has not been publicly disclosed. However, Qureshi’s action of making this claim public is believed to have fueled tensions further between the two rival political factions.
The backdrop to this arrest is a larger political standoff between the Shehbaz Sharif-led government and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. Imran Khan, a former cricketing hero, was ousted from parliament in 2022 through a no-confidence vote.
Khan alleges that his removal was orchestrated by a collaboration between the United States, the Sharif government, and the military. These claims have been denied by all three entities.
The case documents for Qureshi’s arrest allege that he, alongside Khan and others, engaged in the dissemination of sensitive information contained within the confidential letter to unauthorized individuals.
This purportedly involved distorting facts to serve their personal motives and gain. The documents further suggest that they conspired to manipulate the contents of the letter for their own ulterior designs.
Khan’s party received fair treatment after Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s press conference.
Qureshi’s arrest took place shortly after he held a press conference demanding fair treatment for Khan’s party and voicing concerns about the imprisonment of numerous PTI supporters.
He also raised apprehensions about potential delays in the upcoming elections scheduled for later in the year. Imran Khan, who is currently serving a prison sentence in eastern Punjab province, has also been arrested in connection with the same case, referred to locally as “Cypher.” Qureshi has temporarily assumed the role of PTI’s leader during Khan’s absence.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif accuses Imran Khan of revealing a classified diplomatic document in an incident from the previous year, during which Khan exhibited a confidential letter at a public rally.
Both Khan and Qureshi are now booked under Pakistan’s Official Secrets Act, according to the Director General of the Federal Investigation Agency, Mohsin Hassan Butt.
In the aftermath of Qureshi’s arrest, he appeared in court and was granted a 14-day period for interrogation by the investigation agency. During this time, he will remain in police custody.
Imran Khan himself faces a plethora of legal challenges, including accusations of corruption, terrorism-related charges, and incitement to violence stemming from protests in May.
The government has undertaken measures to curb Khan’s supporters and allies, leading to the detention of thousands allegedly linked to the turmoil in May.
As the political climate in Pakistan remains charged, these events underscore the fragility of the nation’s democratic institutions and the deep-seated divisions within its political landscape.