Imran Khan arrest warrant suspended by court

Former Pakistan prime minister has been dodging court appearances since November

A supporter of Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan guards Mr Khan's residence in Lahore on March 17, 2023. AFP
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A Pakistani court on Friday suspended an arrest warrant for former prime minister Imran Khan to give him a reprieve to travel to Islamabad and face charges in a corruption case without being detained.

On Friday, the court granted bail for Mr Khan in eight terrorism cases, a senior member of his party told AFP.

Mr Khan has been at his home in the eastern city of Lahore since Tuesday, after failing to appear at an earlier hearing in the case. His supporters hurled stones and clashed with baton-wielding police for two days to protect him from arrest.

Mr Khan, now in opposition, was removed from office in a no-confidence vote in Parliament last April. He is accused of selling state gifts while in office and concealing assets. The case is one of several the former cricket star turned Islamist politician is facing.

He is now due in court on Saturday, after Aamer Farooq, the chief justice at the Islamabad High Court, suspended the warrant in the corruption case. The court on Friday also warned Mr Khan that he could face contempt proceedings if he again fails to show up before the judge.

Mr Khan has avoided court appearances since November when he was wounded in a gun attack at a protest rally in eastern Punjab province. He still enjoys a huge grassroots following and has campaigned for early elections.

The 70-year-old opposition leader has also claimed that his removal from power was part of a conspiracy by his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and the United States. Both Washington and Mr Sharif’s government have denied the allegations.

Friday's suspension of the warrant was welcomed by Mr Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

“Imran Khan will come to Islamabad to appear before the court," said Shibli Faraz, a party leader.

After the suspension, a jubilant Mr Khan and an entourage of cheering supporters marched into a court in Lahore, where they are expected to seek reprieves from possible warrants related to other cases Mr Khan is embroiled in. Most of them involve charges of incitement to violence.

Tensions have been high in Lahore since Tuesday when the clashes first erupted outside Mr Khan's residence in the upmarket Zaman Park neighbourhood. Mr Khan's supporters threw petrol bombs at the officers, who fired tear gas and water cannon.

Maryam Sharif, a leader in Mr Sharif's ruling Pakistan Muslim League party, criticised Mr Khan on Friday for resisting arrest and lauded the security forces for their restraint.

“The state can arrest him in five minutes, but it exercised restraint to avoid bloodshed,” she said.

Imran Khan arrives at Lahore high court

Imran Khan arrives at Lahore high court
Updated: March 18, 2023, 5:16 PM