By: Chandrashekar Bhat
Pakistan’s top court on Thursday (11) ruled that the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan was illegal, his lawyer said, two days after his detention on graft allegations ignited deadly protests and a tussle with the powerful military.
“The Supreme Court reversed all legal proceedings against Imran Khan … he has been asked to present himself in the Islamabad High Court on Friday morning,” lawyer Babar Awan told reporters.
Awan added that the Supreme Court had ruled that Khan was now under its custody and not the anti-graft agency. Khan would spend the night in the same police guest house as before but allowed to meet a limited number of friends and family.
It was not immediately clear when he would be allowed to go home.
Khan, 70, a cricket hero-turned-politician, has denied any wrongdoing.
Violence triggered by his arrest has aggravated instability in the country of 220 million people that is grappling with a severe economic crisis, eroding hopes of a quick resumption of an IMF bailout.
Nearly 2,000 people have been arrested and at least five killed after Khan’s supporters clashed with police, attacked military establishments and set other state buildings and assets ablaze, prompting the government to call out the army to help restore order.
Footage on Thursday showed Khan walking towards the Supreme Court dressed in a blue traditional shalwar kameez and wearing dark glasses. On Tuesday, he was picked up by heavily armed paramilitary police from Islamabad High Court premises, shoved into an armoured car and whisked away.
Broadcaster Geo TV reported that Khan was brought to the Supreme Court under heavy security in a motorcade of nearly a dozen vehicles led by a top police official.
Khan has showed no sign of slowing down since being ousted in April 2022 as prime minister in a parliamentary no-confidence vote – even after being wounded in a November attack on his convoy as he led a protest march to Islamabad calling for snap general elections.
His arrest came at a time when Pakistanis are reeling from the worst economic crisis in decades, with record high inflation and anaemic growth. The IMF bailout package has been delayed for months even though foreign exchange reserves are barely enough to cover a month’s imports.
The graft case is one of more than 100 registered against Khan since his ouster after four years in power. In most of the cases, Khan faces being barred from holding public office if convicted, with a national election scheduled for November.