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London, New York bear brunt of Imran Khan’s arrest as frenzied supporters pour into streets 

Imran Khan's supporters protest outside the Pakistani High Commission in London (Photo: screengrab)

Former Pakistani prime minister, Imran Khan’s arrest on Tuesday afternoon has brought the country to its knees as violence and arson grip Pakistan. What Khan’s supporters from his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have also done is to show their strength in the UK and USA by collecting in large numbers, shouting slogans and blocking roads.

One of the most harried persons was Paul Fisher, the Westminster City Councillor for West End, in central London, as he tried to reason with PTI protestors outside Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s London residence at Avenfield House, where they were shouting slogans and blaring horns.

In a tweet, showing his frustration, Fisher said: “I tried my best to reason with protesters today who were obviously frustrated by arrest of #imrankhan and I will continue dialogue, including a pledge to bring scrutiny to bear on #Avenfieldhouse. But if we need to resort to using the police to move them on, I will support this”.

Avenfield House is where Pakistan’s first family owns many properties. These flats are located near Hyde Park, London, one of poshest and most expensive areas in the British capital. Ironically, their slogan of choice was “Hum Lekar Rahenge Azaadi” – one which had been chanted by Kashmiri separatists and Leftist groups against India.

Khan’s supporters also collected outside the Pakistani High Commission in London on Tuesday and carried forward their protests for a second day running. Khan’s party, PTI has dug deep roots in western societies and enjoys a large following among professional Pakistani diaspora like teachers and doctors.

Immediately after Khan’s arrest, labelled as illegal detention by his supporters, PTI supporters gave a global call for people to assemble at important locations including the iconic Times Square in New York. Former Special Assistant to the Pakistani prime minister on political communications, Dr Shahbaz Gill roused party supporters to gather at Times Square.

A montage of videos posted by Jibran Ilyas, the social media lead of Imran Khan’s party in Chicago, USA, proved that Pakistanis, in various cities in Canada, the US and the UK converged at designated places in solidarity with Khan.

The popular support that Khan enjoys among the diaspora that led to blockage of streets in London and other places demonstrates the firepower of the Pakistani diaspora which can gather in considerable numbers within hours of an appeal.

This also shows how Pakistan has exported its homegrown politics to the West including the US, bringing nuisance to manicured cities and the polite British society that has largely nothing to do with Imran Khan or Shehbaz Sharif.

The same aggression has been on display, often by other members of the Muslim diaspora in the UK, as was witnessed during the Leicester riots, attacks on Hindu temples by Muslim mobs, protests against notions of Islamophobia and sectarian clashes related to Gulf politics.

Increasing instability and violence in countries like Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan has led to large-scale migration to Europe and the UK, where the Muslim communities are now beginning to consolidate and challenge the local police and even members of other communities like the Hindus and Jews. The UK has witnessed considerable hate politics that has mostly been associated with communal and sectarian strife as well as blasphemy related issues which dominate mainstream Pakistani politics and society.

The communal and hateful politics of Pakistan is now coming to societies in the UK, Europe and the US. Leading the charge are notions of Islamophobia and the Pakistani politics of hate against minorities and sects other than the majoritarian ones.

Also read: How political vendetta, murderous radicals and hotheads are turning Pakistan into a failed state