Pakistan’s former PM Imran Khan on Friday arrived at the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for his pre-arrest bail in a graft case amid tight security.
Mr. Khan, 70, was arrested from the premises of the IHC on Tuesday in the Al-Qadir Trust case. His arrest by paramilitary Rangers sparked widespread protests across Pakistan, prompting the deployment of the Army here as well as in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces.
The IHC upheld his arrest but a three-member Supreme Court bench on Thursday declared his detention “illegal” and ordered his immediate release. The apex court directed police to keep him in the Supreme Court’s protection and produce him before the high court at 11 a.m.
“The manner of execution of the arrest warrant issued by the Chairman, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) dated 01.05.2023 in the Al-Qadir Trust case within the premises of the Islamabad High Court against petitioner is invalid and unlawful,” the bench comprising Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Athar Minallah said in its order.
During the hearing, the court remarked that since Mr. Khan had surrendered to the high court where he was present to secure pre-arrest bail in the case, the entire process should start from the same point where it was interrupted by his arrest.
“The petitioner is directed to be produced before the Islamabad High Court tomorrow i.e. 12.05.2023 at 11:00 a.m. for hearing of his Writ Petition filed to challenge the NAB action against him in the Al-Qadir Trust Case,” it said.
He arrived at the court amid tight security.
Footage aired on television show a large number of police and Rangers officials deployed outside the court premises and barbed wire placed in front of the gate.
Footage from outside the IHC also showed many lawyers shouting slogans expressing solidarity with him.
Meanwhile, Mr. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party in a message asked his followers to reach at 10 a.m. to the G-13 area, which is not far away from the IHC, implying that the party leader intends to make a speech.
Islamabad police late on Thursday issued a statement saying that Section 144, which bans public gatherings, was still imposed in the capital and requested political workers not to “obstruct the legal process”.
“We request those giving calls for protests in Islamabad tomorrow not to cause disturbance of peace,” it said in a tweet, adding that legal action would be taken against those inciting the public.
The Supreme Court also ordered the Islamabad Police to make proper arrangements for the security of the former premier.
On Friday, two senior leaders of Khan’s party – including former federal minister Shireen Mazari – were arrested.
Imaan Hazir-Mazari, the daughter of Mazari and a lawyer, shared a video on Twitter that appeared to show plainclothes men forcefully entering her home to arrest the former minister.
Her arrest comes after a series of arrests of several other top PTI leaders, including Asad Umar, Fawad Chaudhry, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Ali Mohammad Khan, and Senator Ejaz Chaudhry.
All of these leaders other than Khan were arrested under section three of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO).
According to Mr. Khan’s party, former Punjab health minister Dr. Yasmin Rashid has also been arrested.
Mr. Khan has urged his followers to remain peaceful after two-days of massive violence that witnessed vandalism, arson and bloodshed, stoking concerns about a civil war in the country.
After the apex court intervention in the arrest case, a semblance of calm was restored in the country but permanent peace depends on the ultimate fate of Mr. Khan who faces scores of cases and runs from one court to another to secure bails.