Pakistan: Court halts arrest warrant for ex-PM Imran Khan

World Friday 17/March/2023 22:31 PM
By: DW
Pakistan: Court halts arrest warrant for ex-PM Imran Khan
Supporters mobbed Khan's convoy as he traveled to a Lahore court to face other charges. Photo: DW

An arrest warrant for Pakistan's ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan was lifted Friday, allowing him to travel to Islamabad without being held to face charges in a corruption case.

One of the country's top courts suspended an arrest warrant issued against the politician after he failed to show up for a hearing on Tuesday.

Khan has been holed up at his home in the eastern city of Lahore after his supporters hurled stones and clashed with police for two days to protect the former prime minister from being detained.

The court ruling was expected to ease the political standoff. The former-cricket-star-turned-politician is due in court on Saturday.

Khan was told he could face contempt proceedings if he again fails to show up before the judge.

Maryam Sharif, a top leader in Sharif's ruling Pakistan Muslim League party, criticized the former PM 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.

Legal cases against Khan mount

Khan is accused of selling gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries when he was prime minister and concealing assets, which he denies.

The Election Commission of Pakistan found him guilty and barred him from holding public office for one parliamentary term.

The case is one of a string of legal woes facing Khan since his ouster last April.

Most of the other charges against him involve incitement to violence.

Khan, who was in office from 2018 to 2022, was ousted in a no-confidence vote that he claims was part of a conspiracy by his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and the United States.

Both Washington and Sharif's government have denied the allegations.

Khan demands early elections

Since then, the 70-year-old has been demanding a snap election and holding protests across the country.

Khan has avoided several court appearances since November when he was wounded in a gun attack at a protest rally in the eastern Punjab province.

Khan says he fears for his life if detained, and has accused authorities of wanting him in jail to stop him from contesting the election, which must be held by October this year.

After the warrant was lifted on Friday, Khan left his home for the first time in days to appear in court in Lahore in a case related to this week's clashes.

He still enjoys a huge grassroots following and a large crowd of supporters mobbed his convoy as it slowly exited the compound, cheering and waving party flags.

Judges later granted Khan reprieves from possible arrest until March 24 in nine other court cases.

The political wrangling comes as Pakistan remains mired in an economic crisis, awaiting a bailout package of $1.1 billion (€1.03 billion) from the International Monetary Fund.