At the time these words were written, the police and Rangers contingents dispatched to arrest Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan from his Lahore residence had been ordered to retreat. Despite engaging in violent confrontations with scores of charged Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf supporters for more than a day, the law-enforcement personnel ultimately returned empty-handed from Zaman Park.

Khan had told multiple foreign media outlets late Tuesday that he was mentally prepared to spend the night behind bars, but was determined not to surrender. The former prime minister appeared convinced that his arrest was motivated by some sinister conspiracy to assassinate him.

Outside his house, his loyalists – who turned up in droves and quickly outnumbered the police – put up stiff resistance despite being shelled incessantly with tear gas and, according to some reports, fired upon with live ammunition. The sole comfort that can be derived from the disturbing episode is that no innocent lives were lost.

It ought to be pointed out that the civil war-like situation that erupted outside Khan’s residence may have been avoided had he showed up on Monday at the Islamabad sessions court hearing the Toshakhana case. His legal team had already secured bail for him in other cases, but couldn’t convince the judge conducting the Toshakhana proceedings.

A brief reprieve granted to him by the Islamabad High Court expired on Monday with another no-show, and even the Islamabad High Court said enough when approached for bail again.

Khan’s security may be a valid concern, but that ought to be addressed to the state. He cannot expect to continue being excused by the law if he refuses to submit. Khan’s legal team has asked why the police is so desperate to arrest him, arguing that his arrest warrants are only meant to ensure his presence in court on March 18. Till that point is moot, however, his stance can only be taken as one of defiance.

Lastly, it is quite disappointing to note that Khan’s political opponents, especially the Pakistan Muslim League (N), have been advocating for a crackdown against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader ahead of the election scheduled for Punjab.

Maryam Nawaz has previously insisted on “evening the scales” before any election is held; it is hoped her party isn’t simply seeking to eliminate the competition from a contest it will find very difficult to win. The Pakistan Muslim League (N) not too long ago had rallied boldly around the slogan of “Vote ko izzatdo”.

It would do itself a great disservice if it now opts for undemocratic means to return to power. The party and Nawaz must remember one thing: the aftermath of 2018 showed that an election which lacks legitimacy in the eyes of the public can make it extremely difficult for a new government to find broad support for its agenda.

This article first appeared in Dawn.