Social Navigation

Pakistani court suspends arrest warrant for ex-PM Imran Khan


ISLAMABAD — A Pakistani high court on Friday suspended an arrest warrant for former Prime Minister Imran Khan, granting him a reprieve to travel to Islamabad and face charges in a corruption case without being detained.

Khan has been locked up at his home in the eastern city of Lahore since Tuesday, after failing to appear at an earlier hearing in the case. His supporters threw rocks and clashed with baton-wielding police for two days to protect the former prime minister from arrest.

Khan, now in opposition, was ousted in a vote of no confidence in parliament last April. He is accused of selling state gifts while in office and concealing assets. It is one of many cases the former cricketer star turned Islamist politician has faced since his ousting.

He is now due in court on Saturday, after Aamer Farooq, the chief justice of the Islamabad High Court, suspended the warrant in the corruption case. The court also warned Khan on Friday that he could face contempt proceedings if he did not appear before the judge again.

The former prime minister has avoided court appearances since November, when he was injured in a gun attack at a protest rally in the eastern province of Punjab. Khan still enjoys a huge grassroots following and campaigned for a snap election.

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

Friday’s suspension of the mandate was welcomed by Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party of Khan. “Imran Khan will come to Islamabad to appear in court,” said Shibli Faraz, a party leader.

After the suspension, a jubilant Khan and an entourage of jubilant supporters marched to a higher court in Lahore, where judges granted him a possible stay of arrest until March 24 in nine other court cases, all charged with incitement to violence.

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

Maryam Sharif, a senior leader of Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League party, criticized Khan on Friday for resisting arrest and praised security forces for their restraint.

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

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.