Islamabad, Pakistan – A court in Pakistan has cancelled arrest warrants for former Prime Minister Imran Khan in a corruption case, according to Khan’s lawyer.
Faisal Fareed Chaudhry, part of Khan’s legal team, told Al Jazeera that the court in the capital, Islamabad, adjourned the session and instructed the former prime minister to ensure his presence at the next hearing on March 30.
The cancellation of the warrants came after Khan officially marked his appearance at the court. Khan’s vehicle reached the gate of the court building on Saturday amid clashes between supporters of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and police.
“Imran Khan was outside the court in his vehicle, trying to enter the court. However, police tried their level best to restrict him from entering the court and used brutal force against his followers,” Chaudhry said.
Earlier on Saturday, police in Lahore carried out a raid at Khan’s residence, breaking down the entrance gate to gain access.
Khan condemned the raid and said it was carried out while his wife was alone at home.
“Punjab police have led an assault on my house in Zaman Park where Bushra Begum is alone. Under what law are they doing this? This is part of London Plan where commitments were made to bring absconder Nawaz Sharif to power as quid pro quo for agreeing to one appointment,” Khan tweeted.
Footage from Lahore showed police breaking the gate of Khan’s residence after they faced resistance by PTI supporters. A tweet shared by his party showed police using batons to target the supporters.
Worst kind of torture in Zaman Park right now. If something happens, will you paint it as accident again!? #چلو_چلو_عمران_کے_ساتھ pic.twitter.com/5S45UDVvMZ
— PTI (@PTIofficial) March 18, 2023
Khan’s appearance in an Islamabad court came days after a dramatic standoff when police launched an operation at his residence to arrest him after the former PM failed to appear in court, leading to clashes between police and Khan’s supporters.
There were more clashes between police and PTI supporters on Saturday as Khan arrived at the Judicial Complex in Islamabad.
The chief of Islamabad Police, Akbar Nasir Khan, claiming that PTI workers threw stones and fired tear gas at the police “without any provocation”.
The official said that police responded by using tear gas on the workers.
“PTI chief Imran Khan’s journey so far was peaceful and pleasant. Police continued to show restraint but as soon as his convoy came close to the court, stones were pelted at the police,” he said.
Sharing visuals of tear gas being fired, PTI countered the claim in a tweet, accusing police of trying to create “chaos”.
“Islamabad Police is shelling the vehicle and caravan of Chairman Tehreek-e-Insaf Imran Khan unprovoked. The aim is to create chaos and prevent Imran Khan from appearing in court,” a tweet from party’s official handle said in Urdu.
Court authorities have restricted entrance to the complex citing security concerns.
In an audio message shared by his team later on Saturday, Khan said he was not allowed to enter the court.
“I’ve been outside the court for 15 minutes, I’m trying my best to enter but the police have fired tear gas, put obstacles and containers. It seems they don’t want me to enter the court,” Khan is heard saying in the message.
🚨 Heaving tear gas shelling in Islamabad.#چلو_چلو_اسلام_آباد_چلو pic.twitter.com/KOQPSF2MNk
— Rana Qasim Zia (@ranaqasimzia) March 18, 2023
Khan’s arrest warrant, issued by a lower court in Islamabad, was related to his non-appearance in the court to answer a case brought by the Election Commission of Pakistan.
The electoral watchdog had accused him of not declaring gifts received during his time as prime minister from 2018-22, or the profits made from selling them.
Khan denies the charges, saying they are politically motivated.
On Friday, the Islamabad High Court suspended the arrest warrant, instructing Khan to appear before the court.
The former PM expressed his concerns that the authorities are planning to arrest him, a move, he says, is planned to prevent him from contesting elections later this year.
In a tweet on Saturday while travelling to Islamabad, the PTI chief said the government intended to arrest him.
“Despite knowing their malafide intentions, I am proceeding to Islamabad & the court because I believe in rule of law. But ill intent of this cabal of crooks shd be clear to all. It is also obvious now that the entire siege of Lahore was not about ensuring I appear before the court in a case but was intended to take me away to prison so that I am unable to lead our election campaign,” he said in his tweets.
Live broadcast restricted
Pakistan’s media regulatory body, PEMRA, issued orders on Saturday to restrict live coverage of events outside the Islamabad Judicial Complex, where Khan’s court hearing will take place.
According to a statement, PEMRA referred to the recent clashes that took place between PTI workers and police in Lahore and said it had “observed with concern” that satellite TV channels were “showing live footages / images of a violent mob, attacks on police and law enforcing agencies”.
Therefore, “Pemra prohibits live/recorded coverage of any kind of rally, public gathering, procession by any party, organisation and individual etc. for today i.e March 18, 2023 including from the Judicial Complex, Islamabad”.
Earlier on Saturday, Khan said he has formed a committee to lead his party if he is arrested.
“I have made a committee which will obviously take decisions once – if – I’m inside” jail, the 70-year-old said in an interview at his Lahore home before heading to Islamabad. He said there were 94 cases against him.
The legal proceedings against Khan began soon after he was removed from office in a parliamentary vote last year. Since then, he has been demanding a snap election and holding nationwide protest rallies, including one in which he was shot and wounded.