On Friday, Imran Khan, Pakistan’s former Prime Minister, departed a high court in Islamabad. He has been given extensive immunity from arrest in various judicial proceedings. The verdict dealt a setback to the government amid a standoff that has generated days of rioting by Khan’s supporters. And raised the prospect of widespread unrest in the country.
Imran Khan remained in the building for hours after the court granted him bail. While he and his legal team appeared to be negotiating his release from the premises.
As he drove to his home in eastern Lahore, Khan released a video statement from his vehicle. Claiming that Islamabad police used various tactics to keep him inside the courthouse. Authorities only allowed him to travel when he threatened to tell the public he was being held there against his will.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, he arrived at his home. He was greeted by thousands of admirers, who danced, distributed sweets, lit off fireworks, and showered his car with rose petals in celebration of his release.
Authorities expressed fear for Khan’s safety as security was tightened around the court ahead of his departure. Shots were heard near the courtroom in the evening. According to the interior ministry, police were probing who opened fire. Outside the building, clashes between his followers and police have occurred several times.
Khan still faces extensive court cases on charges ranging from incitement of violence to corruption. However, the upheaval of the previous week demonstrated the dangers of opposing him. Following his detention on Tuesday, large-scale protests erupted. Resulting in fights with police and mob attacks on government buildings and military facilities.
The court’s decision was a triumph for Khan. Preventing any further arrests for the time being. In a procedure known as “anticipatory bail,” the Islamabad High Court granted him protection for two weeks on one graft charge and protection until Monday on a slew of other counts. Each case’s protection can be extended, although it was unclear whether this required a fresh court hearing on Monday.
The charismatic 70-year-old Khan, a former cricketer turned Islamist politician, has a large following in Pakistan. Portraying himself as an outsider victimised by the military and political dynasties that have long ruled the country. Meanwhile, opponents accuse him of being a corrupt demagogue who incites his supporters to violence. He was deposed as prime minister in April of last year after Parliament voted no confidence in him.
The government would obey the court’s judgement, according to Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan, who is unrelated to the former prime minister. He said he couldn’t predict whether another attempt to arrest Khan would be made in the coming days but that anyone participating in violence would “not be spared” prosecution.
Khan responded when reporters outside the courthouse asked if he could be imprisoned despite the orders. “So, who will control my people if I am arrested?” He claimed he was unaware of the violence after his arrest until Thursday.
The sweeping verdicts issued on Friday were uncommon, fuelling administration claims that the judiciary was biased in favour of the former prime leader.