Pakistan court orders police to halt efforts to arrest Imran Khan


High court move follows violent clashes between police and supporters outside former PM’s house in Lahore

Shah Meer Baloch in IslamabadWed 15 Mar 2023

Riot police fire teargas at supporters of Imran Khan near the former prime minister’s house in Lahore on Wednesday. Photograph: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

A court in Pakistan has ordered police to suspend an operation to arrest Imran Khan, after violent clashes between the former prime minister’s supporters and law enforcement outside his house.

The vicinity of Khan’s residence became a battleground on Tuesday, when police arrived after a lower court in Islamabad issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for not appearing before it despite several summonses.

On Wednesday the Lahore high court ordered police to postpone their efforts to arrest Khan until the following day, the provincial minister for information, Amir Mir, told Reuters.

Khan is accused of illegally selling state gifts during his premiership from 2018 to 2022. He denies wrongdoing.

The officers who came to arrest Khan clashed with supporters who had gathered outside his house, after Khan and his party leaders asked them to protect him from the arrest operation.

More than 60 police personnel were reportedly injured in the clashes, while at least eight protesters, and 15 protesters were arrested.

The police accused Khan’s supporters of using petrol bombs against them and burning cars and transformers. Khan described the situation as “anarchy” and said he had no control over the protesters.

“The boys outside are not listening to me. When this anarchy and shelling is taking place against them, they won’t listen to me any more. I have no control over them now,” he said.

Hearing the petition over Khan’s non-bailable arrest warrant, the Islamabad high court’s chief justice told Khan’s lawyer that supporters of “a political party”, referring to Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, were attacking police in Lahore, and that it was “an attack on the state”. The chief justice reserved a verdict on the case after Khan agreed to appear before court on Saturday.

The former information minister Fawad Chaudhry, who is a close aide of Khan, said: “It is true that things will get out of control from our hands and we might not be able to control our workers. The situation in Lahore and clashes are evidence of it.”

Chaudhry said they had feared the possibility of an assassination attempt on Khan and that they “had specific information from Afghanistan regarding [an] assassination attempt … The interior minister has been threatening Khan too. We fear for his life.”

Men throw objects amid smoke on a street littered with debris
Supporters of Imran Khan during the clashes with police on Wednesday. Photograph: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

Muneeb Farooq, a political analyst, said if Khan was arrested, his safety would be the responsibility of the government. “In this volatile situation, the government can’t think of harming Khan. He is not a common man.”

Farooq said Khan could have avoided the clashes by giving himself up for arrest. “The path Khan has chosen for himself, and [the] provocative speeches he is giving, mean anarchy and chaos,” he said.

Supporters of former Pakistani PM Khan clash with police ahead of his possible arrest in Lahore

The author and political analyst Zahid Hussain said: “Khan has a huge role in this anarchy and he has pushed the country into it. The current government has a role as well. Khan is responsible for what is happening in Pakistan. It is a state’s crisis and multiple crises. Every state institution including the powerful army has become controversial. This is what anarchy is.”

The legal proceedings against Khan began after he was ousted from office in a parliamentary vote early last year. Since then, he has held protest rallies across the country demanding a snap election, during one of which he was shot and wounded.

The current prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, has rejected Khan’s demands, saying the election will be held as scheduled later this year.

Political infighting is common in Pakistan, where no prime minister has yet fulfilled a full term and where the military has ruled for nearly half of the country’s history.

Reuters contributed to this report


Categories: Asia, Pakistan, Pakistan Police

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