We have been here before. Just as the public was getting ready to vote in the general election, Nawaz Sharif was spectacularly arrested, shaking the foundation of incumbent party, and setting the stage for its loss at the hands of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). Now too, as the public is getting ready to vote for the 37 seats up for grabs in the by-elections – 11 of which are in the National Assembly – Shehbaz Sharif was arrested without warning or prelude, sending another seismic shockwave through the political landscape.

It is hard not to see a pattern here, and many in the country are connecting the dots themselves.

While the modus operandi seems similar, the justifications are weaker this time around. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) admitted in court on Saturday - where Shehbaz Sharif was presented among passionate scenes – that they have no proof against the Leader of the Opposition in the Ashiana Iqbal Housing scam yet. Rather, they hope that through the arrest and the 10 day remand, they can glean the information from him. These are flimsy grounds at best for an arrest in an alleged white collar crime, especially in which the accused was already cooperating with the authorities.

This baseless arrest, without proof, will only give weight to the speculation that this episode is being engineered to divert the support from the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) in the by-elections. The effects are already beginning to show, as some candidates from the party have withdrawn their nominations.

What is even more appalling is the fact that despite several high profile politicians being under investigation by NAB – several of whom belong to the ruling party - only Shehbaz Sharif has been singled out. Under what logic does the NAB purport to arrest the one politician for alleged white collar crimes and let the others go? The contrast does not bode well for NAB’s intentions.

The timing, the circumstance and the manner in which this arrest was made is very peculiar, and it comes to no surprise that the opposition is clamouring and decrying what they term “political victimization” in contradiction of Imran Khan’s promises.

Furthermore, the arrest of the Leader of Opposition and the head of a main political party reflects abysmally on the country internationally. It does not paint a picture of a stable or responsible Pakistan. For a government that is trying desperately to seek foreign investment and convince governments that its policies merit the resumption of aid – all to deflect a looming economic crisis – such a step is disastrous.