Supreme Court orders immediate release of Imran Khan, declares arrest unlawful

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ruled that former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s arrest earlier this week was illegal and that he should be released immediately.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, Umar Ata Bandial, ordered Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khnan’s immediate release after the warrants through which he was arrested in Islamabad on May 9 were also declared null and void.

“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 the petitioner is invalid and unlawful,” the Supreme Court said in its order.

His lawyer Babar Awan said the former prime minister “is now directly in the custody of the Supreme Court of Pakistan — not in police custody” as he awaits another court hearing at Islamabad High Court on Friday at 11 am local time.

The court also allowed up to 10 guests will be allowed to visit Khan in a police guesthouse overnight.

During the hearing, when Khan was informed about the chaotic situation and violent protests sparked by his arrest, he said that no harm should be caused to the country. He asked his supporters to remain peaceful and said: “We only want elections in the country,” he maintained.

Govt reaction

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) has slammed the court verdict to release Imran Khan, with the party’s senior vice president Maram Nawaz demanding Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial’s resignation.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah warned that “We will arrest him again”.

Khan’s graft case is one of over 100 registered against him since he was ousted from power in a vote of no-confident in April last year. Since then, Khan has led countrywide protest campaigns to pressure the government to call early elections scheduled for late 2023.

Arrest and protests

The order came as a massive relief for Khan’s supporters and his party two days after Imran Khan was arrested on corruption charges by paramilitary troops in a sudden operation that saw paramilitary force personnel smash their way into a courthouse in the capital Islamabad to detain him.

Since Khan’s dramatic arrest, protesters have been clashing with police in major cities of Pakistan, and mobs have attacked military and government sites.

More than 2,000 people have been arrested, at least 11 others killed and dozens injured in the clashes.

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