Pakistan’s high court on Thursday ordered police to delay the arrest of Imran Khan by a day to quell a surge in violence that saw fierce battles between supporters of the former prime minister and security forces.
Khan’s aide, Fawad Chaudhry, said the Lahore High Court had extended the order to stop police operations until Friday. State Information Minister Amir Mir confirmed the court order.
Armed with batons and slingshots, dozens of Khan’s supporters cordoned off his home on Tuesday and Wednesday to prevent security forces from arresting him after he failed to appear in court during his tenure as prime minister in a case accused of illegally selling state gifts. Khan denies the allegations.
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The court-ordered arrest of Khan, which began on Tuesday, has sparked clashes between his supporters and his security forces near Lahore, raising concerns about the political stability of nuclear-armed Pakistan as it faces an economic crisis.
Protesters torched police vehicles, a water cannon van, dozens of cars and motorcycles and threw petrol bombs at security forces who fired tear gas and rubber bullets, the violence subsided after a high court halted police action on Wednesday.
A lower court in Islamabad has issued an arrest warrant for former international cricketer Khan for defying an order to appear in court on charges of illegally selling state gifts from foreign dignitaries during his tenure as prime minister from 2018 to 2022.
Khan denies the allegations. The National Election Commission found him guilty and banned Khan from holding public office for one parliamentary term.
Legal proceedings against Khan began after he was removed from office in a parliamentary vote early last year. He has since called for early elections and held nationwide protest rallies, at which he was shot and wounded. Current Prime Minister Sheikh Baz Sharif rejected Khan’s request, saying elections would be held as scheduled later this year.
(Writing by Asif Shahzad and Miral Fahmy; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)