Imran Khan's arrest in Pakistan could play into his hands - but it could also inspire violence

This could be a defining moment for Pakistan.

The spectacle of seeing Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan dragged out of a courtroom and arrested by Pakistan's paramilitary shocked the world.

He has long predicted it though, accusing the establishment of political persecution. On the streets of Islamabad, his sudden detention has enraged and energised his supporters.

On the Kashmir Highway, a key route into the city, they've come together to demand their leader is released.

Some carry wooden sticks and throw stones at police. But others insist they're here peacefully and are being targeted by those meant to protect them.

One man struggling to speak amidst the tear gas, visibly shaken, tells me: "I am a doctor and I've been in the protest since yesterday and all security personnel, all agencies, they are firing straight on the people."

The man next to him says Pakistan's institutions have turned their back on the country and on democracy.

"The authorities they're not looking after the people. You can see what's going on right now. What do we want? We just want to release Imran Khan."

A few kilometres away, Mr Khan is being told he will be detained for eight days on corruption charges. But his party think this is a potentially huge rallying point for him.

They've called for a nationwide strike. What the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party don't have though is their charismatic leader to instruct them.

Without that and with very little internet, building and organising a critical mass to tip the scales politically is challenging. And there's plenty of scope to misjudge.

This arrest could play into Imran Khan's hands of course. But it could also inspire violence - creating insecurity and providing the government with an easy reason not to deliver its central goal - an early election.

The military clearly decided it had had enough of Mr Khan's public criticism - perhaps the final straw came this week when he again accused a top military official of co-ordinating an assassination attempt against him.

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The military is hugely influential, feared and revered.

To see its offices and headquarters attacked by civilians is something we haven't witnessed before. But some people you speak to here think the military is deliberately allowing it, so they can swoop in and steady the ship when things are looking out of control.

I've been to Pakistan five times in the last eight months, watching a legal cat-and-mouse game between Mr Khan, the courts and the government.

It has at times felt like the country would erupt if Mr Khan was arrested. It has.

But how far, how deeply and who wins or loses from that - I'm just not sure yet. But it feels like the next few days could help decide that.