In a temporary relief for Imran Khan, a Pakistani court Wednesday ordered the police to stop till Thursday its operation outside the former prime minister's residence here to arrest him in a corruption case after a scuffle between the security personnel and his supporters.
Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party on Tuesday challenged the police operation in the Lahore High Court, requesting it to direct the government to end it.
On Wednesday, the police halted the operation after the Lahore High Court (LHC) summoned the Punjab inspector-general, chief secretary and Islamabad police (operations) head on the petition filed by PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry seeking order for the government to stop the police operation at the Zaman Park residence of Khan.
"IGP Punjab Dr Usman Anwar appeared before the court and told it that police had to launch the operation as Islamabad police had brought an arrest warrant of Imran Khan in Toshakhana gifts case. We had to implement this order under law. He said some 59 policemen have been injured during the clashes with the PTI workers," a court official said.
"The PTI advocate told the court that the sessions court Islamabad had issued the order to ensure the presence of Khan in the court on March 18 in the Toshakhana gifts case... why police operation was launched to arrest him four days before, requesting it intervene to save human lives," the official said.
LHC’s Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh asked the PTI counsel whether the Islamabad High Court is hearing the PTI plea to cancel the arrest warrants of Khan in the Toshakhana case.
"The counsel informed that the IHC is hearing Khan's petition. On this Justice Sheikh said let the IHC decide the matter and meanwhile the government stop the police operation forthwith," the official said.
Meanwhile, a large number of lawyers also converged on the Mall Road to protest against the police operation.
In a separate development, Islamabad High Court on Wednesday reserved its judgment on a petition filed by Khan to suspend arrest warrants against him in the Toshakhana case.
The district and sessions court in Islamabad on February 28 issued non-bailable arrest orders against Khan in the Toshakhana case about the concealment of the proceeds from the sale of state gifts.
The Islamabad High Court heard the petition by Khan against arrest orders. He also submitted an affidavit through his counsel that he would appear before the court at the next hearing on March 18.
Chief Justice Amir Farooq observed during the hearing that the court would come out with an order to avoid conflict and ensure respect for the courts.
The court reserved the decision without giving any time when it would be announced today.
Khan was disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan last year in October for not sharing details of the sales. The election body later filed a complaint with the district court to punish him under criminal laws for selling the gifts he had received as prime minister of the country.
Pakistan Rangers and police personnel who were closing in on Khan's residence to arrest him in a corruption case on Wednesday started retreating, prompting cheers and celebrations among his supporters.
In a tweet, the party said that more workers were reaching Zaman Park and vowed not to let the "impure intentions" of the coalition government succeed.
Earlier in the day, authorities deployed the elite Rangers outside Khan's residence, a day after clashes with police left over 60 people injured, including 54 policemen.
Lahore's Zaman Park area was turned into a battleground after 70-year-old Khan's defiant supporters engaged in pitched battles with policemen on Tuesday to stop them from arresting their leader in the Toshakhana case, resulting in injuries on both sides.
Khan has been in the crosshairs for buying gifts, including an expensive Graff wristwatch he had received as the premier at a discounted price from the state depository called Toshakhana and selling them for profit.
Established in 1974, the Toshakhana is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division and stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats, and officials by heads of other governments and states and foreign dignitaries.
Khan was ousted from power in April last year after losing a no-confidence vote, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China and Afghanistan.