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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Pakistan ex-PM Khan appears in court after ‘unlawful’ arrest

"Your arrest was invalid, so the whole process needs to be backtracked," Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial told Khan at a hearing in the capital Islamabad on Thursday.

Detained former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan was due to appear in court on Friday, after the Supreme Court ruled unlawful his arrest this week that triggered deadly clashes across the country.

“Your arrest was invalid, so the whole process needs to be backtracked,” Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial told Khan at a hearing in the capital Islamabad on Thursday.

Khan was ordered to remain in the bench’s custody under police protection for his own safety until Friday’s court appearance.

Read more: President writes to PM urging to ensure Imran Khan’s constitutional rights

However, the government has vowed to re-arrest Khan should he be released, setting the stage for more unrest.

Since being ousted from office last April, Khan has waged a tempestuous campaign for snap elections and fired unprecedented criticism at Pakistan’s government and powerful military who he blames for pulling him from power.

He has accused senior military and government officials of plotting a November assassination attempt that saw him shot in the leg during a rally.

Meanwhile has become tangled in a slew of legal cases — a frequent hazard for opposition figures in Pakistan, where rights groups say courts are used to quash dissent.

The onetime cricket star was arrested on Tuesday at the Islamabad High Court on the orders of the country’s top graft agency.

But on Thursday, the Supreme Court said the arrest was unlawful because it took place on court premises where Khan had intended to file a bail application.

Khan, 70, was ordered back to the same police headquarters where he has been sequestered since his arrest on the condition it should be treated as a “residence”.

Read more: Major victory for PTI as SC declares Imran Khan’s arrest ‘illegal’

– ‘Country needs peace’ –

Ahead of Friday’s hearing, hundreds of police and paramilitary troops were deployed to Islamabad High Court and the surrounding area, which was blocked to traffic.

Islamabad Police issued an emergency order banning all gatherings in the capital city after PTI called for supporters to come together.

“We are hopeful that bail will be granted by the High Court,” Faisal Hussain Chaudhry, a lawyer for Khan told reporters.

He said further arrests of senior PTI leaders overnight -– bringing the total number to 10 –- showed the government was “not serious about solving the issue”.

“The country needs peace but such steps by the government are not helpful,” he said.

Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling on the legality of Khan’s arrest, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah refused to back down.

“If (Khan) gets bail from the High Court tomorrow, we will wait for the cancellation of bail and arrest him again,” Sanaullah told Dunya TV.