- The Supreme Court of Pakistan has declared the arrest of Imran Khan “unlawful” and ordered his immediate release.
- Imran Khan, former cricketer and Prime Minister, was arrested in connection with the Al Qadir University case.
- Violent protests erupted across Pakistan following Imran’s arrest, resulting in casualties and property damage.
In a significant development, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has declared the arrest of Imran Khan, the former Pakistan cricketer and Prime Minister, as “unlawful” and ordered his immediate release. Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial ruled that the warrants used to arrest Imran in Islamabad on Tuesday were null and void. Consequently, Imran will be transferred to a guesthouse at police headquarters in Islamabad and has been instructed to present himself before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday, which had previously deemed his arrest as legal.
Just two days ago, Imran was taken into custody by the Pakistan Rangers, a paramilitary federal law enforcement corps, when he appeared at the IHC for an unrelated case. The arrest was in connection with the Al Qadir University case, an institution that Imran established during his tenure as prime minister in 2019 and where he currently serves as chairman. The manner in which Imran was apprehended, with scores of paramilitary police leading him away, drew widespread criticism within Pakistan and beyond. Imran alleged in the Supreme Court that the arrest had involved violence and he had been subjected to physical assault.
Imran had been held by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), and the IHC had ordered his physical remand for eight days. However, Imran promptly appealed this decision, leading to the Supreme Court’s ruling for his release. It is important to note that this decision does not imply an acquittal in the case, but rather stems from the court’s finding that the arrest procedure was flawed.
Following Imran’s release, jubilant supporters gathered outside the court premises, celebrating and chanting slogans. His arrest had triggered violent protests across Pakistan, particularly in Lahore, where the Corps Commander’s House was vandalized and set on fire. Clashes between the Pakistan military and Imran’s party, the PTI, persisted over the past two days.
As a consequence of the unrest, mobile internet services have been suspended nationwide, and access to social media platforms has been blocked. Preliminary estimates suggest that the death toll stands at 12 individuals.
It is worth mentioning that the current federal government, which came into power in April 2022 through a vote of no confidence, has repeatedly called for Imran’s arrest. Additionally, various courts in the past year have demanded his apprehension. Earlier attempts to arrest him from his residence in March were thwarted by a large gathering of supporters. Multiple polls have consistently shown Imran to be the most popular politician in Pakistan, and he has accused the government of undermining democratic rights by refusing to hold elections.
In a March interview with Al Jazeera, Imran Khan expressed his belief that the government aimed to arrest or disqualify him due to their fear of his party’s immense popularity, stating, “They want to either arrest or disqualify me because they are scared [of the fact] that my party is one of the most popular in Pakistan’s history.” It is worth noting that Imran survived an assassination attempt last November when he sustained bullet wounds to his leg during a protest march in Wazirabad, Punjab.
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