Former Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has been released from court in Islamabad, following the Supreme Court’s judgement that his abrupt arrest on corruption allegations was unwarranted. Khan’s party announced on Friday that he was en route to Lahore.
The court granted Khan protective bail, ensuring he cannot be re-arrested on the same charges for a fortnight. Additionally, the court ruled that he cannot be arrested on any charges submitted after last Tuesday until May 17th.
Nonetheless, the corruption allegations against Khan remain valid. Khan, 70, denied all charges when he was formally accused of corruption for the first time amidst numerous other cases he is battling.
Authorities argue that Khan illegally sold state gifts during his tenure as prime minister. This case was instigated by Pakistan’s Election Commission.
After Friday’s hearing, Khan stayed within the court premises seeking anticipatory bail against other charges, which he informed the BBC includes accusations of terrorism, sedition, and blasphemy.
If found guilty, the former international cricket icon and Pakistan’s premier from 2018 to 2022 could be disqualified from running for office, potentially permanently. Elections are expected later this year.
Entering the hearing under heavy armed security, Khan acknowledged his supporters with a clenched fist salute.
During Friday’s hearing, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial stated that the arrest was invalid because it transpired on court grounds. He mandated a full retraction of the arrest process.
This intense saga has further strained the already tense relationship between Khan and Pakistan’s influential military.
A common belief among many analysts is that Khan’s 2018 election victory was facilitated by the military, a claim both parties refuted.
However, Khan eventually had a falling out with the military. Following a series of party defections and an escalating economic crisis, he lost his parliamentary majority.
Since his premature removal from office, he has emerged as one of the military’s most outspoken critics, leading to a decline in the army’s popularity.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party asserts that the charges against him, which pertain to gifts from foreign leaders during his prime ministership, are politically driven.
His sudden arrest outside the courthouse on Tuesday incited fury among Khan’s followers.
In the ensuing chaos, at least ten individuals were killed, and around 2,000 people were apprehended. The protests included an attack on a military commander’s residential property in Lahore, which was set ablaze.
Despite the deployment of the army in Islamabad and other regions, such as Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, leading to a reduction in violence, the nation remains on high alert.
A considerable security presence was observed at the court on Friday.
In a pre-hearing interview with the BBC, Khan expressed his fear of immediate re-arrest upon release and urged the authorities to exercise caution as any such move might lead to uncontrollable reactions. “How am I supposed to control what happens afterwards?” he questioned.
Detractors accuse the PTI of inciting unrest through social media posts urging supporters to protest, and judges have instructed Khan to denounce the violence and urge his followers to cease their activities.
Khan reiterated to the BBC that he and his party had only called for peaceful demonstrations and asked supporters to “act within the constitution.”
The current Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, who succeeded Khan, condemned the Supreme Court’s decision to release Khan during a cabinet address broadcasted on state television.
He claimed that the judges had shown favouritism towards Imran Khan, leading to “the death of justice in Pakistan.” He also criticised Khan and his party for their provocative language and for inciting protesters to take to the streets.
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