Imran Khan Leaves Court After Illegal Arrest Ruling, Pakistan Tense Amid Corruption Charges

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Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has left the court premises in Islamabad, a day after the Supreme Court deemed his arrest on corruption charges illegal. Mr. Khan’s party announced that he was traveling to Lahore. The court granted him protected bail, preventing his re-arrest on the charges for two weeks and ordered that he couldn’t be arrested on any charges filed after last Tuesday until May 17. However, the corruption charges against Mr. Khan remain in effect.

Mr. Khan denounced his arrest, describing it as an abduction from the high court and expressing his grievances towards the treatment he received. The charges against him include counts of terrorism, sedition, and blasphemy, and if convicted, he could be disqualified from future political office, including the upcoming elections later this year.

Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial declared the arrest unlawful due to it occurring on court premises and ordered the process to be reversed. The case revolves around allegations of Mr. Khan selling state gifts during his tenure as prime minister, as brought forward by Pakistan’s Election Commission.

This dramatic turn of events has exacerbated tensions between Mr. Khan and Pakistan’s influential military. While some analysts believe that Mr. Khan’s election victory in 2018 was facilitated by the military, relations have soured since then. Following defections and economic crises, Mr. Khan lost his parliamentary majority. Since his ousting, he has become a vocal critic of the military, leading to a decline in its popularity.

The charges against Mr. Khan have been dismissed as politically motivated by his PTI party, citing that they stem from gifts given to him by foreign leaders during his premiership. However, his arrest sparked widespread outrage among his supporters, resulting in violent protests across the country. The unrest led to numerous casualties and arrests. Although the deployment of the military helped quell the violence, Pakistan remains on edge.

Critics argue that the PTI has exacerbated the unrest through social media posts encouraging protests, prompting judges to urge Mr. Khan to condemn the violence and call for his supporters to cease. Mr. Khan maintains that he and his party advocate only for peaceful protests.

Pakistan’s current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who assumed power after Mr. Khan’s ousting, criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling, alleging favoritism towards Mr. Khan and asserting that it signaled the demise of justice in Pakistan. He further condemned Mr. Khan and his party for their inflammatory language and incitement of protests, accusing them of dividing the nation.