Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was granted bail by an Islamabad court on Friday after the Supreme Court overturned his arrest, which had authorized riots across the country.
“The court granted Imran Khan an interim two-week bail and ordered the authorities not to arrest him” again during this period in this corruption case, one of his lawyers, Khawaja Harris.
Khan, 70, was arrested on Tuesday while being heard by an Islamabad court in the case and then remanded in custody the next day for eight days.
But on Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled his arrest “invalid and unlawful” because it should not have been carried out in court.
However, she kept him in the custody of the police, responsible for ensuring his protection, until Friday’s hearing before the same court where he was arrested.
He arrived there at the end of the morning in a convoy under heavy police protection. Hundreds of police and paramilitaries had also been deployed around the building, revealed an AFP journalist.
Imran Khan is thus safe from a new arrest in this case for two weeks. But he could still be arrested at any time for the dozens of other cases in which he is implicated, and which he denounces as an attempt by the government and the army to prevent his return to power.
The Minister of the Interior, Rana Sanaullah, had also promised Thursday that he would be again.
Pakistani courts are often used to launch lengthy and tedious proceedings in an effort to stifle political opposition, say human rights defenders.
“Only a Respite”
In this context, the Supreme Court’s decision “appears as only a respite, probably as part of the efforts to control a situation that has become explosive and reduce tensions”, analyst Imtiaz Gul told AFP on Thursday.
Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), on Friday called on its supporters to come to Islamabad to support him, but police immediately announced a ban on all gatherings.
Two new senior PTI officials, accused of orchestrating the violence, were arrested overnight – bringing their total to 10 – which shows that “the government is not trying to solve the problem”, said Friday Faisal Hussain Chaudhry, another lawyer for Mr. Khan.
The arrest of Mr Khan, who was ousted in April 2022 but is counting on his unimpaired speed to return to power in the next election this year, has sparked violent protests across the country.
Hundreds of police were injured and more than 3,500 protesters arrested, mainly in the provinces of Punjab (central east) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (northwest), according to the police.
At least nine people have died in incidents linked to the protests, which were violently suppressed by security forces, according to police and hospitals.
Rarely in Pakistan, thousands of PTI supporters have attacked the symbols of the army, accusing it of having avoided the ousting of its leader, in power since 2018.
Authorities have cut off mobile internet, restricted access to social networks such as Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, and ordered the closure of schools in the country.
The arrest of former cricket star Khan marked a dramatic worsening of the crisis caused by his overthrow.
Imran Khan was deposed by a motion of no confidence after losing the support of the military, who had secretly backed him when he became prime minister.
Since his ouster, Mr. Khan has multiplied political maneuvers to obtain the holding of early elections before the October deadline, in a country in the grip of a serious economic crisis.
He also launched into increasingly virulent diatribes against his successor, Shehbaz Sharif, and the military establishment.
The military wields considerable political influence in Pakistan. It has staged at least three coups since independence in 1947 and held power for more than three decades.
But direct criticisms of him are rare, because they fail like a red line not to be crossed, at the risk of ending up in the sights of the security apparatus.
Imran Khan’s arrest came shortly after he renewed charges at the weekend against a senior officer, whom he blames for plotting to assassinate him in November during a meeting election where he was shot in the leg.
He did not provide the slightest proof of his assumptions, which were denounced as “fabricated and evil” by the army.