LAHORE, March 15 — Pakistan’s Imran Khan said today he would heed a court summons, as his supporters continued to clash with security forces that had come to arrest the former prime minister for not showing up in a case against him related to selling state gifts.
The violence, which erupted yesterday and involved security forces firing tear gas and water cannons at stone-pelting crowds that had cordoned off Khan’s home in Lahore, adds to the instability in nuclear-armed Pakistan, which is struggling with an economic crisis and awaiting an International Monetary Fund bailout.
A lower court in the capital Islamabad had last week issued an arrest warrant against Khan for defying orders to present himself in court to defend charges that he unlawfully sold state gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries while he was prime minister from 2018 to 2022.
In a tweet, Khan said he had signed a “surety bond” that would guarantee his appearance in the court by a March 18 deadline, and senior aide Fawad Chaudhry said Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, had asked the court to stop the police from arresting him.
“We have asked the police to wait until the court decision on the matter,” added Chaudhry, a former information minister.
It was not immediately clear when the court would decide.
The legal proceedings against Khan began after he was ousted from office in a parliamentary vote early last year. Since then, he has been demanding a snap election and holding nationwide protest rallies, and was shot and wounded in one of these rallies. Current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has rejected Khan’s demands, saying the election would be held as scheduled later this year.
Khan, 70, a former international cricketer turned politician, still enjoys a large support base in Pakistan. In a video message broadcast by his party, he blamed the government for trying to arrest him, and called on his supporters to continue to fight.
“If anything happens to me, or I go to prison, or they kill me, you have to prove that this nation will continue to struggle even without Imran Khan,” he said.
In a statement late yesterday, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said the government had nothing to do with the arrest warrant against Khan, and that the matter was up to the courts.
“Instead of cooperating with law enforcement officials, Imran Khan is breaking the law, defying court orders and using his party workers… as human shields to evade arrest and stoke unrest,” she added. — Reuters