An operation to arrest Imran Khan was postponed by Pakistan’s high court on Thursday, defusing a wave of violence that saw the former prime minister’s supporters engage in fierce combat with law enforcement.
The Lahore High Court had extended its injunction to stop the police operation until Friday, according to Khan’s advisor Fawad Chaudhry. The court order was approved by the state’s minister of communication, Amir Mir.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, dozens of Khan’s supporters, armed with batons and sling-shots, barricaded his home to prevent security forces from arresting him for failing to show up in court over a case in which he is charged with illegally selling state gifts given to him while he was prime minister. Khan denies the charges.
The court-ordered attempt to arrest Khan, which began on Tuesday, triggered clashes between his supporters and security forces in his Lahore neighbourhood, raising fears about the political stability of nuclear-armed Pakistan as it faces an economic crisis.
The violence, in which protesters torched police vehicles, a water-cannon truck and scores of cars and motorcycles and hurled petrol bombs at security forces firing tear gas and rubber bullets, subsided after the high court halted the police operation on Wednesday.
A lower court in Islamabad had issued a warrant against former international cricketer Khan for defying orders to present himself in court over charges that he unlawfully sold state gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries when he was prime minister from 2018 to 2022.
Khan’s legal team on Thursday filed an appeal in the trial court, pleading for the suspension of the arrest warrants, which was turned down, said three local TV channels.
Khan denies the charges. The National Election Commission had found him guilty and barred Khan from holding public office for one parliamentary term.
The legal proceedings against Khan began after he was ousted from office in a parliamentary vote early last year. Since then, he has been demanding a snap election and holding nationwide protest rallies, and was shot and wounded in one of these rallies. Current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has rejected Khan’s demands, saying the election would be held as scheduled later this year.