ISLAMABAD: A high court in Islamabad has granted former Prime Minister Imran Khan two weeks reprieve from arrest in a corruption case, releasing him on bail from the charges against him.
Babar AwanKhan’s lawyer says the court made the decision on Friday, a day after the country’s supreme court asked for its ruling. He says that Khan is now a “free man”, and that the decision was just.
The ruling came after Khan returned to court to hear whether he would be protected from a renewal of arrest or sent back into custody – a decision that put the government and legions of Khan’s supporters on edge after days of violent confrontations.
Imran Khan returned to court on Friday to hear whether to be protected from a renewed arrest or sent back into custody – a decision that has put the government and legions of Khan’s supporters on edge after days of violent confrontations.
The 70-year-old opposition leader appeared before the same court from which he was dragged and arrested on Tuesday. The arrest sparked nationwide protests in which his supporters attacked military installations, burned cars and ambulances and looted public stores in different parts of the country. The government responded with a crackdown, detaining nearly 3,000 people.
Friday’s court hearing is part of a series of complex legal maneuvers.
On Thursday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court declared Khan’s arrest unlawful, but then asked the Islamabad High Court – a lower court – to reconsider its initial decision to uphold the arrest.
The Supreme Court said it would respect any ruling issued by the Islamabad Court on Friday.
In a brief preliminary hearing of the Islamabad Court on Friday, the judges heard Khan’s application for protection from arrest on corruption charges. As Khan’s supporters cheered in the courtroom, the judge adjourned the hearing for two hours. Outside, other supporters set a police car on fire when security forces prevented them from approaching the courthouse.
The government said it would quickly re-arrest Khan if the Islamabad High Court upheld its previous ruling that the initial arrest was lawful. On Thursday, the Interior Ministry said he could be arrested on other charges if he was granted protection in corruption cases.
The government claims that Khan’s release rewards and encourages mob violence. In court Friday, Khan’s chief lawyer, Babar Awan, told reporters that the government appeared determined to arrest the former prime minister.
Khan’s arrest on Tuesday was a stunning and controversial move – agents from the National Accountability Bureau stormed the Islamabad High Court where Khan was attending a hearing on other charges, dragged him away and put him in an armored vehicle. The Supreme Court ruled the arrest “invalid and unlawful” because it was carried out from the courthouse, in violation of Khan’s right to justice.
The ensuing violence left at least 10 of Khan’s supporters dead. Dozens of demonstrators and more than 200 police officers were injured. Protesters set fire to trucks, cars and police vehicles and blocked highways. Approximately 3,000 supporters of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, including Nawab Khan, were arrested.
On Friday, Khan’s supporters again resorted to violence, setting fire to a police car not far from the court where he was appearing. The police prevented them from approaching the court.
The controversy surrounding Khan – a figure who inspires both fierce loyalty and furious opposition – threatens to open a deeper artery of unrest in a country that has seen many military takeovers and bouts of violence. The unrest echoed what followed the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007 during an election rally. Her supporters at the time, outraged by her murder, raged for days across Pakistan.
Khan, a former cricket star turned Islamist politician, was removed as prime minister last year by a vote of no confidence in Parliament and now leads the opposition. He faces more than 100 legal cases, most of which relate to allegations that he incited violence and threatened police and government officials.
He also faces at least three corruption cases, including accusations from the National Accountability Office that he accepted property worth millions of dollars in exchange for providing benefits to a real estate businessman. He was charged with the new terrorism charge on Thursday for allegedly inciting his followers to violence after his arrest.
After the Supreme Court’s order was issued on Thursday, Khan spent the night at a government guesthouse in Islamabad, where he met up with family members and friends.
He was also met by Pakistani President Arif Alvi. Alavi is trying to defuse the tension between Khan and the government of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif to avoid escalation.
Speaking at a special cabinet session on Friday to discuss the developments, Sharif criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling, saying there was a “real corruption case” against Khan, “but the judiciary has become a stone wall protecting him.”
As Sharif’s government grapples with political unrest amid a deepening economic crisis, it is also dealing with militant attacks. According to the Pakistani army, two soldiers were killed and three wounded on Friday when gunmen attacked a security post in the town of Muslim Bagh in the southwestern province of Balochistan. It added that two militants were also killed in an exchange of fire.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *