Friday, October 27, 2023

Ex-Pakistani PM Imran Khan granted protective bail by Lahore court


Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has been granted protective bail by the Lahore High Court in multiple legal cases filed against him. The decision came after a tense standoff between Khan’s supporters and security forces outside his residence in Lahore, which had escalated into clashes as officers tried to arrest him on a separate court order. Khan, who heads the Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, arrived at the Lahore court accompanied by a large number of supporters to seek protective bail in cases filed in Lahore and Islamabad in the aftermath of the confrontations. Accusations included rioting, attempt to murder, abetment of violence and criminal conspiracy under the country’s anti-terrorism law, among others. The two-member bench granted Khan a 10-day relief for the cases filed in Lahore and set a March 24 deadline for the cases registered in Islamabad.

The Islamabad High Court also suspended an arrest warrant issued against Khan in an alleged corruption case. The court ordered him to appear before a lower court in the capital on Saturday. The warrant related to his non-appearance in court to answer a case brought by the Election Commission of Pakistan accusing him of not declaring gifts received during his time as prime minister from 2018 to 2022 or the profit made from selling them. Khan denies the charges, saying they are politically motivated.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Khan said he planned to appear before the Islamabad court. PTI leader Musarrat Cheema said Khan “never shied away from appearing before the court and it was only due to security concerns”. “Imran Khan never intended to embarrass the courts,” she said. “All he said was that the location of the court is congested, and he has genuine security concerns due to which he asked for a possibility of clubbing all the cases together. However, he has now given assurance of his appearance in Islamabad tomorrow [Saturday]. He will be there.”

Khan, a former cricket star, has been holding public rallies since being removed from office in a parliamentary vote in April. He has been demanding immediate national elections and was shot and wounded at one of those rallies in November. Khan told Al Jazeera that the people who want to arrest him are the same people who tried to assassinate him. “I believe the same people now trying to put me in jail were responsible for the attempt on my life,” he said, without giving any names.

Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder reported from Lahore that the cases “pertained to the resistance that Khan’s supporters showed towards the police when they came to arrest him”. “For the first time we see a ray of hope from a crisis that everyone in Pakistan has been watching nervously,” he added after the court’s decision. “There have also been some signals coming from the government, that the Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is extending an olive branch, and Khan also said that, in the interest of the country, he would like to find a settlement to all this,” Hyder said, surrounded by jubilant PTI supporters.

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