Pakistan Supreme Court Rules Arrest of Ex-PM Imran Khan Was 'Invalid'
Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that former Prime Minister Imran Khan's arrest on corruption charges earlier this week was illegal and ordered his immediate release.
"Though no longer a prisoner, Khan was ordered to stay in a police guesthouse overnight 'as a guest' under the security of Islamabad police to ensure his protection, and told he could bring 10 people of his choice to join him," The Guardian reported.
After Khan was detained by paramilitary forces on Tuesday, protests erupted throughout Pakistan. Two days later, the popular leader's supporters celebrated news of the high court's decision.
Khan, prime minister from 2018 to 2022, has denied the allegations against him, and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party he previously led calls them politically motivated.
If convicted, Khan would be disqualified from seeking office in the elections scheduled to take place later this year and could possibly receive a lifetime ban.
Clashes between Khan's supporters and the nation's police this week resulted in at least 11 deaths and 2,500 arrests, including seven senior PTI officials.
"Your arrest was invalid so the whole process needs to be backtracked," Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial told Khan.
Khan, who has faced dozens of charges since he was ousted last April after losing a no-confidence vote, had avoided arrest for several months.
As BBC News reported:
Previous attempts had ended in near misses. In March, a court order to detain him was thwarted by pitched battles between his supporters and police outside his home in Lahore.
His arrest, which happened while he was in court in the capital Islamabad, was no less dramatic. The 70-year-old is barely visible among a swarm of officers in riot gear as they escort him outside and bundle him into a vehicle.
Speaking before a trio of Supreme Court judges on Thursday, Khan condemned his arrest at the hands of the paramilitary Punjab Rangers.
Former Pakistani ambassador Maleeha Lodhi told the BBC she thought the court's intervention would help reduce tensions in the streets.
"The last couple of days have seen extraordinary violence by protesters who are supporters of Imran Khan, who are obviously enraged by the manner in which he was arrested," she said. "There is still uncertainty, but hopefully the situation will not return to the kind of violent scenes that we have seen."
Although Khan requested that he "be allowed to stay at his home, the court determined that because of the security situation, he would have to remain at the police guesthouse," BBC News reported. "However, the judges repeatedly emphasized that he would be allowed to have whoever he chooses as a guest."