ISLAMABAD/ NEW DELHI: In a major relief for Imran Khan Pakistan’s top Court has ruled the arrest of former prime minister Imran Khan to be illegal and ordered for him to be immediately released. The Supreme court’s order on Thursday came after Khan’s legal team challenged his arrest by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in a corruption case on Tuesday, triggering violent protests across the country and prompting the government to call out the army to help restore order.,
Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday declared the former prime minister’s arrest “illegal” and ordered his immediate release after he was produced before a bench on its orders. The order to produce 70-year-old Khan was issued by a three-member bench, comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Athar Minallah.
Supreme Court chief justice Umar Ata Bandial also asked Khan to issue an appeal to his supporters to remain peaceful, as the country faced growing turmoil in its streets. Khan’s supporters were seen dancing near the court building to celebrate the decision. Authorities have also arrested at least three senior leaders of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party as of Thursday, including a former foreign minister in his cabinet during his premiership between 2018 and 2022.
A total of nearly 2,500 people have been arrested so far and at least 11 killed and dozens injured after Khan’s supporters clashed with police in several cities. CJP Umar Ata Bandial condemned the arrest of the PTI chief Imran Khan from the court premises, calling it a stain on the country’s judicial system. Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial has commented that no one can be arrested from the Supreme Court, high court or accountability court. The judges ordered the Islamabad High Court to hear the case on Friday. The arrest of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman was made on Tuesday, with Khan subsequently handed over to the National Accountability Bureau for eight days on Wednesday after appearing in an accountability court.
The bench, which heard Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman’s plea against his arrest in the Al-Qadir Trust case, expressed anger at the way Khan was taken into custody from the premises of the Islamabad High Court. The bench had directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to produce Khan by 4:30 pm (local time) when the court would reconvene. Khan was produced before the court amid tight security. As he entered the courtroom, it was closed, and subsequently, the bench resumed the hearing of the case.
Pakistan’s army has heavily influenced the nuclear-armed country for most of its existence and is a crucial behind-the-scenes player.Many analysts believe Mr Khan’s election win in 2018 happened with the help of the military. But since he was ousted from premiership, Mr Khan has become one of the military’s most vocal critics. On Wednesday, Mr Khan was indicted on charges that he unlawfully sold state gifts during his premiership, in a case brought by Pakistan’s Election Commission. Mr Khan denied any wrongdoing. Imran Khan, who remains wildly popular, has previously said the dozens of cases brought against him are part of an effort by the struggling government and military establishment to prevent him from returning to power.
A day earlier, dramatic footage showed dozens of security officers forcibly removing the 70-year-old from court – where he was attending to separate graft proceedings – then bundling him into a police vehicle. Mr Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party called his arrest in the capital Islamabad an “abduction” and said it would challenge its legality in court. Khan was arrested Tuesday during a routine hearing in the capital Islamabad and whisked away to an unknown location overnight before appearing behind closed doors in a specially convened anti-graft court at police headquarters. He was produced in the Anti-Accountability Court No 1 presided by judge Muhammad Bashir, the same judge who had convicted former premier Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam in a corruption case of having properties in London. In its verdict, the court handed over Khan for an eight-day remand to the NAB.
The judge has ordered that Mr Khan be remanded in custody for eight days, after which he can seek bail. This is just one of over 100 corruption cases registered against Mr Khan since he left office. For months he had avoided arrest, with his supporters at times fighting pitched battles with police to keep him out of custody. The violent protests against Imran Khan’s arrest continued in Pakistan on Day 3, resulting in at least eight deaths and 290 injuries on Thursday. At least 1,900 enraged protesters have been rounded up in running battles with law enforcers across the country. Pakistan’s political turmoil intensified on Wednesday with violent protests across the country and the government deploying the military as former prime minister Imran Khan was remanded in custody for eight days on fresh corruption charges following his dramatic detention.
(Bureau Report with Media Inp0uts).