In all honesty, 2023 was more like a crazy roller coaster than a democratic process when it comes to Pakistani politics. Here are some of the significant events that happened this year:

Assemblies dissolved

On January 14, 2023, the provincial assembly of Punjab was dissolved while on January 16, 2023, Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was dissolved as former Prime Minister Imran Khan was pushing for early national elections.

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May 9

On May 9, 2023, former prime minister and founder chairman of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan was submitting his biometric data for a court appearance when paramilitary forces broke down a window inside the court to get to apprehend him.

The dramatic and sudden arrest of the former cricket star turned leader resulted in violent clashes between supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and law enforcement agencies protests to mark the arrest of the former Prime Minister turned into riots.

Several military installations, including GHQ and the Lahore corps commander’s official residence, were attacked across the country within hours of Imran Khan’s detention.

May 9, termed a “black day” by the Pakistani state, ended up provoking a harsh military crackdown on Khan’s party.

PTI Dismantled

Thousands of PTI members, including many women, were rounded up and arrested after May 9 riots.

More than two dozen members of PTI resigned from the politics following the protests.

Notable figures like Shireen Mazari, Asad Umer, Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, Fawad Chaudhry, Maleeka Bokhari, Abrar ul Haq, Murad Ras, Ali Haider Zaidi, Imran Islamil, Usman Dar, Farrukh Habib, Sadaqat Ali Abbasi, Andleeb Abbas, Arbab Ghulam Rahim, Shaukat Tarin and others either left PTI or quit politics.

Imran Khan Jailed

Police arrested Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan in Lahore on August 5, 2023, after a court sentenced him to three years in prison for illegally selling state gifts, potentially barring the opposition leader from contesting an upcoming election.

On September 26, 2023, Imran Khan was shifted to the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi from Attock prison, a day after the Islamabad High Court ordered authorities to relocate him to the high-security jail.

Qazi Faez Isa

On September 17, 2023, Justice Qazi Faez Isa was sworn in as the 29th chief justice of Pakistan.

A ceremony was held at Aiwan-i-Sadr in Islamabad during which President Arif Alvi administered the oath of office. Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar and Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir were also present.

Justice Isa was accompanied by his wife, Sarina Isa, while he was taking oath.

Imran Riaz ‘safely’ returns

On the evening of May 11, 2023, police arrested Imran Riaz Khan, a former anchor with the privately owned broadcaster Express News and host of a YouTube channel with over three million subscribers.

Imran Riaz Khan, often called Imran Riaz, was trying to flee the country over fears of his arrest. At the time, authorities accused him of inciting people to violence through his reporting.

He was said to have been freed a few days later, but there was no trace of him and police denied keeping him in custody.

On September 25, 2023, his lawyer Mian Ali Ashfaq took to X (former Tiwtter) and posted a picture of Imran Riaz, after his return, stating that the recovery took a long time due to “countless difficulties, a weak judiciary” and the ineffectiveness of the Constitution. He also shared a photo of him with Khan.

The rift between Zardari and Bilawal

On November 23, 2023, the former president of Pakistan and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari‘s father, Asif Ali Zardari, during an exclusive interview with Hamid Mir on Geo News’ program “Capital Talk”, said that Bilawal is “inexperienced” and that it would take some time for him to gain more exposure, on Thursday.

“Bilawal is much more talented than I am, but he isn’t experienced,” he said.

On November 24, 2023, in a seeming act of defiance to his father, Bilawal changed his profile picture on X on Friday afternoon, to a photo with his mother Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister and head of the PPP till her assassination in 2017.

PPP denied all the claims of a rift between the father-son duo.

Afghan Refugees Repatriation

On October 3, 2023, Pakistan’s caretaker government announced it would carry out mass deportations — known under domestic law as an Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan — asking all concerned to leave the country before 1 November. Although the plan purported to apply to all foreigners residing in the country illegally, it appears designed to target Afghans, millions of whom have sought refuge in Pakistan over the years.

As of December 29, 2023, the total number of allegedly illegal Afghans who left Pakistan reached 453,480 and the process is still underway.

Nawaz Sharif Returns

On October 21, 2023, Pakistan’s thrice-elected former Prime Minister and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) supremo Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan, ending four years of self-imposed exile in London.

Nawaz Sharif was disqualified when the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) announced its decision on July 28, 2017, in the Panama Papers case.
After that, Nawaz Sharif and three of his children were referred to an accountability court, which was ordered to file corruption cases against Sharif’s family within six weeks.

In July 2018, the expelled prime minister was imprisoned for 10 years in the Avenfield properties corruption case, an assets-beyond-means trial.

In the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption case, the PML-N supremo was sentenced to seven years in jail on December 24, 2018. Nawaz Sharif was taken to Adiala jail in this case, and then he was shifted to Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail on the very next day. He was also fined Rs1.5 billion and US$25 million in this case.

The former prime minister was released from jail in March 2019. After that, the Lahore High Court (LHC) allowed Nawaz Sharif to go to London for treatment for fast-depleting platelet levels, and then he left for London in November 2019.

Elections Date Announced

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced on November 3, 2023, that 8th February 2024 is the poll date for the General Elections for the National Assembly of Pakistan and Provincial assemblies of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

The date was announced by the President House in a statement following a meeting between the top election officials and President Alvi, hours after the election commission lawyer told the Supreme Court that elections will be held on February 11.

PTI New Chairman

On December 2, 2023, The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) on Saturday elected Barrister Gohar Ali Khan as the new chairman in the intra-party elections held on the directives of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Gohar won the chairman’s position unopposed.

The change was forced on the party after the Election Commission of Pakistan warned the PTI last month that it risked losing its emblem – a cricket bat – unless an internal ballot was held for party officers.

Election symbols are crucial in a country where the adult literacy rate is 58 percent, according to World Bank data.

Baloch Long March

Demanding the release of all “missing persons” and an end to “extrajudicial killing” in Balochistan under the leadership of activist Dr Mahrang Baloch and Baloch Yakjehti Committee (BYC), the march started in Turbat, Balochistan, on December 6 after the alleged extrajudicial killing of 24-year-old Balach Baloch.

According to BYC, when the march reached the capital, the city administration didn’t allow them to protest in front of the press club. Maharng Baloch said in her live video from the Facebook page of BYC that Islamabad police arrested 300 male protesters, eight women, and 10 children.