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Pakistan: Ex-PM Imran Khan leaves court after bail granted

May 12, 2023

The former prime minister had earlier been dragged out of a court building and arrested, triggering riots across Pakistan. The same court now released him on bail and granted him protection from arrest.

Imran Khan seen through the front window a car
Khan (70) still wields massive political influence in PakistanImage: STR/REUTERS

The Islamabad High Court on Friday ordered the release of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on bail for two weeks, his lawyers said. The former prime minister left the court premises later in the day. 

On Tuesday, Khan was dragged out of from the same court building and arrested. He has now been granted protection from arrest. 

The 70-year-old politician and former cricket star is facing charges of corruption.

His arrest, which was later ruled unlawful, triggered riots that claimed several lives across the country. The current government, comprised of Khan's political rivals, deployed the military to curb the unrest.

The level of unrest has not been seen since 2007 when another former premier, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated during an election campaign. 

The current government led by Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has denounced the ruling and said it was determined to find other legal avenues to arrest the former premier.

Khan has led a public battle against the current government, calling upon his supporters to rally around his demand for early general elections, in which he plans to run. 

Islamabad on edge

Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party said thousands of "peaceful Pakistanis" would gather in support of the former prime minister. Islamabad Police to issued an emergency order banning all gatherings in the capital city.

While the area surrounding the court was on lockdown, local media said police and Khan's supporters clashed elsewhere in the city. 

Police have already arrested nearly 2,000 people for violence since Khan's arrest on Tuesday. At least eight have been killed in clashes with the police.

Why was Khan in court?

The Pakistani Supreme Court declared on Thursday that Khan's arrest was illegal. Then, the top court instructed the Islamabad High Court to once again look into Khan's appeal against corruption charges — continuing the proceedings that were abruptly halted on Tuesday.

The rule ordered his release, but did not protect himthe corruption chargers. The temporary bail is typically renewed under Pakistan's judicial system.

Khan has ambitions to return to power despite currently being banned from seeking public office.

The former Pakistan cricket captain was ousted as prime minister in a vote of no confidence last year. But this was only the beginning of an escalating power struggle between Khan and the current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Khan also alleges that Pakistan's military and political elite are working in consort with foreign influences, often singling out the US.

The conflict is happening against a background of intensifying economic tensions caused by recent increases in prices for staple products like food and fuel. 

Pakistan's political future uncertain after Khan's arrest

rm, fb, dj/msh (AP, AFP)