Pakistan antiterror court allows ex-PM Imran Khan’s arrest over May riots

Khan, 70, is currently serving a three-year jail sentence following his conviction earlier this month in a corruption case

Security personnel with ballistic shields escort former Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan
Security personnel escort former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, centre, as he leaves a Lahore court in May this year [File: Arif Ali/AFP]

Islamabad, Pakistan – An antiterrorism court in Pakistan has allowed the police to interrogate and arrest Imran Khan in a case related to the attack on an army building during the protests that followed the former prime minister’s brief arrest on corruption charges in May this year.

Khan, 70, is currently serving a three-year jail sentence following his conviction earlier this month in another corruption case. He denies the charges and alleges he is being targeted by the government to prevent him from contesting the forthcoming national elections.

On Wednesday, the antiterrorism court in Lahore city gave its approval after the police filed an application seeking to question Khan over the storming of the so-called Jinnah House, the official residence of a top military commander in the city.

After Khan was picked up by the paramilitary troopers from the premises of the Islamabad High Court on May 9, thousands of his angry supporters hit the streets, attacking government and military installations and demanding his release.

In one such attack, dozens of people entered the residence of a military commander in Lahore and set a part of it on fire.

Pakistan protest
A view of Jinnah House in Lahore that was allegedly set on fire by Khan’s supporters [File: Aun Jaffery/Reuters]

Pakistani authorities allege people belonging to Khan’s Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party stormed the building. In a state crackdown that followed the protests, thousands of PTI leaders and workers were arrested, many of whom still remain behind bars.

The government is planning to try at least 100 of those arrested in military courts under the draconian Army Act, a decision slammed by rights groups who say such trials are unfair and lack transparency.

The Lahore antiterrorism court’s permission to interrogate and arrest Khan comes as he seeks relief from the courts after his imprisonment on August 5 for nondisclosure of the gifts he and his wife received from foreign governments and leaders when he was the prime minister between 2018 and 2022.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday questioned the Islamabad High Court’s decision to jail Khan in the state gifts case and called for a review. The top court said the verdict may have “serious defects”.

Days after his imprisonment, Khan was declared ineligible to participate in electoral politics for at least five years, as per Pakistani law.

Pakistan was scheduled to hold the general elections by November after the National Assembly was dissolved and a caretaker government announced earlier this month.

But the polls appear unlikely to be held this year as the election commission redraws some constituencies based on the country’s latest census.

Source: Al Jazeera