LAHORE – A Pakistani high court on Thursday ordered police to postpone an operation to arrest Imran Khan for another day, defusing a surge in violence that saw supporters of the former prime minister engage in pitched battles with security forces.
Fawad Chaudhry, Khan’s aide, stated that the Lahore high court had extended an order to halt the police operation until Friday. Amir Mir, the state information minister, confirmed the court order.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, dozens of Khan supporters armed with batons and slingshots barricaded his home to prevent security forces from arresting him for failing to appear in court in connection with a case in which he is accused of illegally selling state gifts given to him while he was prime minister. Khan denies the allegations.
The court-ordered arrest of Khan, which began on Tuesday, sparked clashes between his supporters and security forces in his Lahore neighborhood, raising concerns about Pakistan’s political stability as it faces an economic crisis.
Protesters set fire to police vehicles, a water-cannon truck, and dozens of cars and motorcycles, and hurled petrol bombs at security forces firing tear gas and rubber bullets. The violence subsided after the high court ordered a halt to the police operation on Wednesday.
A lower court in Islamabad issued a warrant for former international cricketer Khan to appear in court on charges that he illegally sold state gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries while he was prime minister from 2018 to 2022.
Khan denies the allegations. Khan was found guilty by the National Election Commission and barred from holding public office for one parliamentary term.
Khan’s legal proceedings began after he was removed from office in a parliamentary vote early last year. He has since demanded a snap election and held nationwide protest rallies, during which he was shot and injured. Current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has rejected Khan’s demands, stating that the election will take place later this year as planned.