Amid a massive show of strength outside former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan’s house in Lahore, a high court on Friday suspended the non-bailable arrest warrant against the cricketer-turned-politician in the Toshakhana case till tomorrow, giving him a chance to appear in a district court.
The District and Sessions Court in Islamabad issued the arrest warrant against the ousted premier and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supremo on February 28 in connection with corruption linked to the Toshakhana case. Khan has been accused of concealing the proceeds of the state gifts.
Chief Justice Aamer Farooq directed the Islamabad Police to bring Khan to court by March 18 and provide him security for the same.
Imran Khan gets protective bail in 9 cases
Hours after the suspension of the arrest warrant, Lahore high court granted protective bail to the former prime minister in eight terrorism cases and a civil case after he appeared before the court. Khan travelled to the Lahore High Court (LHC) in a bulletproof vehicle to seek protective bail in the cases.
Zaman Park turns into a battlefield
The Islamabad Police has been trying to enter Khan’s residence in Zaman Park, Lahore for more than 24 hours. The area turned into a battlefield as the former premier’s party workers and supporters flocked to his house, placed shipping containers outside the main entrance and equipped themselves with clubs and slings to protect him from any further police action.
Khan’s supporters have been protesting his arrest in Lahore for several days. Even as the police, with their riot gear on and backed by Rangers, closed in on Imran’s home in order to comply with the court orders, the supporters stood as human shields. Police fired tear gas shells and water cannons but the PTI workers remained undeterred.
Will Imran Khan be arrested?
On Thursday, Judge Iqbal dismissed Imran Khan's plea to suspend a non-bailable arrest warrant against him and said that he would halt attempts by the Islamabad police to arrest him if the ousted premier surrendered before the court.
"Law is the same for everyone," the judge wrote in his judgment after three back-to-back hearings and ordered the police to arrest Khan and present him on March 18 as per law.
Meanwhile, Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Syed Asim Munir has supported Khan's arrest in the Toshakhana case as a means to end his political career, reported Pakistan daily Dawn.
PM Shehbaz Sharif extends an olive branch
Earlier this week, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif extended an olive branch to Imran Khan and emphasised that all political forces will have to sit for dialogue to rid the country of the ongoing political and economic crises, according to a Dawn report.
He, however, said the government would hold the general election at its scheduled time as per the decision of the election commission.
All about the Toshakhana case
The 70-year-old PTI chief has been in the crosshairs for buying gifts, including an expensive Graff wristwatch he had received as the premier at a discounted price from a state depository called Toshakhana, and then 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 disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in October last year 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.
Khan was ousted from power in April after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China, and Afghanistan. The PTI chief, who came to power in 2018, is the only Pakistani Prime Minister to be ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament.
Including Toshakhana, Khan has at least 81 cases against him.