Pakistan court extends pause in efforts to arrest former Prime Minister Imran Khan

A Pakistani court on Thursday extended a pause in efforts to arrest former Prime Minister Imran Khan in a bribery case, a sign that tensions are easing in the country’s cultural capital after clashes erupted this week as police tried to arrest him.

The decision is a reprieve for Khan, who was due to be arrested hours earlier. The Lahore High Court ordered police to stay until Friday the plan to arrest the 70-year-old opposition leader. It also asked Khan’s legal team for talks to resolve the issue.

According to lawyers from both sides, the court also banned Khan’s Pakistani opposition party Tehree-e-Insaf from holding a rally that Khan was supposed to lead on Sunday ahead of elections for a regional assembly.

Thursday’s order sent a wave of relief from Khan’s stick-wielding supporters who stood ready to stop police from reaching Khan’s home in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province. However, despite the order, the police and paramilitary rangers deployed to arrest Khan were not immediately withdrawn.


Punjab provincial police chief Usman Anwar said the violence in Lahore began on Tuesday when officers went to comply with the court’s order to arrest Khan. But, he said, Khan’s supporters began throwing rocks at unarmed officers who only carried batons.

“We will comply with the court order, and we will do it,” he told a local Geo TV station.

Lahore Police have registered two new cases against Khan and his supporters, who are accused of damaging public property and assaulting police as they went to his home to arrest him on Tuesday.

A supporter of former Prime Minister Imran Khan throws a rock at riot police officers in Lahore, Pakistan, March 15, 2023. Pakistani police have halted their efforts to arrest former Prime Minister Imran Khan after clashes continued for a second day outside his home in Lahore. (AP Photo/KM Chaudary)

In Islamabad, Khan’s legal team on Thursday requested Judge Zafar Iqbal to stay the arrest warrants he issued last week against Khan, who is accused of illegally selling government gifts and concealing his assets.

Iqbal did not say whether he would suspend the arrest warrants against Khan. Instead, he asked why Khan resisted when officers went to his home to arrest him. The judge said if Khan faces court now, he will prevent police from arresting him.


During Thursday’s court hearing in Islamabad, Saad Hassan, an electoral court lawyer, opposed Khan’s request to have his arrest warrants overturned, saying the former prime minister has avoided court hearings since January.

Violence erupted in Lahore on Tuesday when some 1,000 of Khan’s supporters clashed with police as they attempted to arrest the former prime minister at his home in the upscale Zaman Park area. Khan’s supporters threw petrol bombs, stones and bricks at the police. Officers responded by brandishing batons, firing tear gas and using water cannons. They couldn’t arrest Khan.

On Wednesday, Khan said in a video message that he was ready to travel to Islamabad on March 18 to appear in court if he was not arrested. Khan also posed for cameras seated at a long table and displayed stacks of spent tear gas grenades which he said had been collected from around his home.

“What crime have I committed that my house was attacked like this,” he tweeted the day before.


Khan, who was ousted by a no-confidence vote in parliament in April, was ordered to appear before a judge in Islamabad on Saturday to plead guilty to illegally selling government gifts he received while he was prime minister and concealing his assets to answer for.

In October, he was also relieved of all public office on the basis of the charges.

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