Pakistan's ex-prime minister Imran Khan leads rally, ignoring arrest warrants

Police attempted to arrest former PM last week after he failed to attend a court hearing for a case over alleged corruption

Imran Khan continues to hold rallies across Pakistan, such as this one last week in Lahore. EPA
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Former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan rallied thousands of supporters in eastern Pakistan on Monday as courts in the capital Islamabad issued two more arrest warrants for him over his failure to appear before judges in graft and terrorism cases.

Since he was ousted last April in a no-confidence vote in parliament, Mr Khan has routinely ignored arrest warrants in a string of cases against him, describing them as a plot orchestrated by the government of his successor, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, to discredit him.

Mr Khan is seeking permission to skip a court hearing at which he is expected to be formally charged for selling state gifts while in power.

Details of state gifts bought by many of the country's elite were released on Sunday.

His lawyer Khawaja Harris has filed for an exemption, AFP reported, citing risks to Mr Khan's life after an assassination attempt at a rally in November.

He blamed intelligence chiefs and Mr Sharif for orchestrating the attack, in which the former prime minister was shot when his convoy came under fire in eastern Punjab province.

Police attempted to arrest Mr Khan last week after he failed to attend a court hearing for a case over alleged corruption during his time in office, when he was accused of selling gifts received from foreign dignitaries.

Under Pakistani law, he cannot be formally charged without appearing in court.

Almost 500 pages of inventory were published by the cabinet on Sunday, detailing gifts received by officials including Mr Khan, Mr Sharif, President Arif Alvi and former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, among others.

According to the documents, also shared by Dawn News, Mr Khan received several high-value watches from the state treasury, including six Rolexes, at a concession rate. He is accused of hiding profits made while later selling the items.

His wife was also said to have kept jewellery worth more than $61,000.

Mr Khan has been beset by legal challenges since being ousted in a vote of no confidence in April — the first Pakistani PM to be driven from power in this way.

His supporters have held regular protests against official decisions barring him from holding public office over the scandal.

The electoral commission disqualified Mr Khan after he made “false statements and incorrect declarations” regarding the gifts he received.

He has continued to hold rallies regardless and has travelled across the country to demand snap elections in marches attracting thousands of people.

Pakistan's media authority has since banned TV channels from airing live or pre-recorded footage of his speeches.

The Electronic Media Regulatory Authority accused him of “spreading hate speech” that could “disturb public peace”.

Any channels found to be in breach of the rules will have their licences suspended, it said.

Updated: March 13, 2023, 4:49 PM