Pakistan court drops arrest warrant against ex-PM Imran Khan
ISLAMABAD: A Pakistan judge dropped an arrest warrant against former prime minister Imran Khan on Saturday (Mar 18), his lawyers said, after the ex-cricket star, who had skipped several hearings, travelled to court.
The 70-year-old has been tangled in a slew of court cases since he was ousted in a no-confidence motion last year and has been pressuring the fragile coalition government, which replaced him, to hold early elections.
Earlier this week, Khan’s supporters fought pitched battles with police sent to arrest him in the eastern city of Lahore after he failed to appear in court over graft charges, citing security concerns.
“The court has cancelled the arrest warrant after marking Imran Khan’s attendance. The hearing has been adjourned till March 30,” one of Khan’s lawyers, Gohar Khan, told AFP.
Khan, in office from 2018 to 2022, is facing a spate of legal challenges, including one that prompted a failed attempt to arrest him on Tuesday.
He was to address charges in court on Saturday of unlawfully selling state gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries while in office.
Khan says he followed legal procedures in acquiring the gifts.
The 70-year-old reached the capital on Saturday afternoon and was on his way to the court in a motorcade surrounded by supporters.
After days of legal wrangling, Khan travelled more than 300 km from Lahore to the Islamabad court complex, but was unable to get out of the car.
Around 4,000 supporters mobbed the complex, pelting stones and throwing bricks at police officers who fired back with tear gas.
The court however accepted Khan’s attendance, his lawyers said.
Islamabad’s police chief told local broadcaster Geo News that Khan’s supporters had attacked police near the court and fired tear gas shells, prompting police to fire more tear gas back.
Khan has led nationwide protests since his ouster from power last year and has had a spate of cases registered against him.
The police chief for Punjab province, Usman Anwar, told a media conference in Lahore that officers went to Khan’s house on Saturday to intercept people who had been involved in earlier clashes with police and had arrested 61 people, including for throwing petrol bombs.
Earlier this week, police and Khan’s supporters clashed outside his home during the arrest attempt.
Hours before leaving his home, the former cricket star told Reuters he has formed a committee to lead his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), if he is arrested.
Khan, who was shot and wounded while campaigning in November, said in the interview the threat to his life is greater than before and asserted – without providing evidence – that his political opponents and the military want to block him from standing in elections later this year.
The military and government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government has denied being behind the cases against Khan. The military – which has an outsized role in Pakistan, having ruled the country for nearly half of its 75-year history – has said it remains neutral towards politics.