Pakistan court cancels arrest warrants for ex-PM Imran Khan

Court adjourns hearing in corruption case against leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party until March 30.

Imran Khan supporters
The car of former Prime Minister Imran Khan is surrounded by his supporters as he leaves the Judicial Complex in Islamabad on March 18, 2023 [Anjum Naveed/AP]

Islamabad, Pakistan – A court in Pakistan has cancelled arrest warrants for former Prime Minister Imran Khan in a corruption case, according to Khan’s lawyer.

Faisal Fareed Chaudhry, part of Khan’s legal team, told Al Jazeera that the court in the capital, Islamabad, adjourned the session and instructed the former prime minister to ensure his presence at the next hearing on March 30.

The warrants were cancelled after Khan officially marked his appearance at the court. Khan’s car reached the gate of the court building on Saturday during confrontations between police and supporters of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

“Imran Khan was outside the court in his vehicle, trying to enter the court,” Chaudhry said. “However, police tried their level best to restrict him from entering the court and used brutal force against his followers.”

Earlier on Saturday, police in Lahore stormed Khan’s residence, breaking down the entrance gate to gain access as officers clashed with PTI supporters. Police said they arrested more than 60 people.

Usman Anwar, inspector general of the Punjab Police, said authorities completed a search and recovered weapons, including Klashnikov rifles and a large number of bullets.

Speaking at a press conference in Lahore, Anwar said police were fired upon by PTI workers inside the property.

imran khan
Police use heavy machinery to enter former prime minister Imran Khan’s residence in Lahore [Arif Ali/AFP]

A heavy police contingent was present for the raid along with heavy machinery and water cannon. Footage showed police using cranes to break through the main gate of the house, after which they baton-charged the PTI workers who were resisting their entrance into the house.

Khan condemned the raid and said it was carried out while his wife was alone at home.

“Punjab police have led an assault on my house in Zaman Park, where Bushra Begum is alone,” Khan tweeted. “Under what law are they doing this? ”

Khan’s court appearance came days after a dramatic standoff at his house in Lahore, where police sought to arrest him after the former prime minister failed to appear in court, leading to clashes between police and Khan’s supporters.

Clashes outside court

There were more clashes between police and PTI supporters on Saturday as Khan arrived at the Judicial Complex in Islamabad.

The chief of Islamabad Police, Akbar Nasir Khan, said PTI workers threw stones and fired tear gas at police “without any provocation”.

The official said police responded with tear gas.

“PTI chief Imran Khan’s journey so far was peaceful and pleasant,” he said. “Police continued to show restraint, but as soon as his convoy came close to the court, stones were pelted at the police.”

The PTI posted footage of tear gas being fired and accused the police of trying to create “chaos”.

“Islamabad Police are shelling the vehicle and caravan of Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan unprovoked,” the party wrote on its Twitter account in Urdu. “The aim is to create chaos and prevent Imran Khan from appearing in court.”

In an audio message shared by his team later on Saturday, Khan said he was not allowed to enter the court.

“I’ve been outside the court for 15 minutes,” Khan said. “I’m trying my best to enter, but the police have fired tear gas, placed obstacles and containers. It seems they don’t want me to enter the court.”

The corruption case against Khan has been brought by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

The electoral watchdog had accused him of not declaring gifts received during his time as prime minister from 2018 to 2022 or profits made from selling them.

Khan has denied the charges and called them politically motivated.

The former prime minister has expressed concerns that the authorities were planning to arrest him, a move that he said is aimed at preventing him from contesting elections this year.

Live broadcast restricted

Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) issued orders on Saturday to restrict live coverage of events outside the Islamabad Judicial Complex, where Khan’s court hearing took place.

In a statement, the watchdog referred to the clashes that took place between PTI workers and police near Khan’s residence in Lahore and said it had “observed with concern” that satellite TV channels were “showing live footages/images of a violent mob, attacks on police and law enforcing agencies”.

The legal proceedings against Khan began soon after he was removed from office in a parliamentary vote last year. Since then, he has been demanding snap elections and holding nationwide protest rallies, including one in which he was shot and wounded.

Source: Al Jazeera