Pakistan Court Frees Former PM as Nation Braces

Arrest of Imran Khan had set off days of violence
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 11, 2023 1:20 PM CDT
Updated May 11, 2023 1:27 PM CDT
Pakistan Court Frees Ex-Leader as Nation Braces
Supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan celebrate in Multan, Pakistan, Thursday, May 11, 2023.   (AP Photo/Asim Tanveer)

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the release of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose arrest earlier this week sparked a wave of violence across the country, per the AP. Khan's backers danced in the streets outside the court building, celebrating the latest turn in the confrontation between the ex-premier and the current government. Amid days of clashes between protesters and police, the government had cracked down on Khan's supporters, arresting more than 2,000 in raids around the country. As the Supreme Court ruled Khan's arrest on Tuesday was illegal, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial urged Khan to appeal to his supporters to remain peaceful. The government had warned that freeing him would reward and encourage violence.

Though Khan was released from custody, he will be under the protection of security forces in the capital, Islamabad. He is to appear before the Islamabad High Court on Friday. Even for a nation accustomed to military takeovers and political crises, the week's turmoil has been remarkable. It echoed unrest that followed the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto during an election rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. Her supporters at the time, outraged by her killing, rampaged for days across Pakistan.

Khan, who was removed from office a year ago by a no-confidence vote in Parliament, faces multiple corruption charges in Pakistani courts. But his arrest was a startling, dramatic move: He was in court Tuesday for one set of charges, when anti-graft agents barged in, dragged him away, and shoved him into an armored vehicle in connection to another set of charges. In an address to the nation late Wednesday, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said Khan was arrested because of his involvement in corruption, and that there was evidence backing up these charges.

(More Pakistan stories.)

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