Imran Khan unable to enter court amid clashes in Pakistan capital

Imran Khan unable to enter court amid clashes in Pakistan capital

Chaos stops former PM from exiting vehicle so judge allows him to sign presence from outside and return home

Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan officially marked his presence in court in the country’s capital on Saturday, his aide said, complying with judicial orders after a standoff with police that has led to intense clashes with his supporters.

Local media Geo TV reported that the trial court in Islamabad cancelled the warrants for his arrest as a result of his presence.

Khan, in office from 2018 to 2022, is facing a spate of legal challenges, including one that prompted a failed attempt to arrest him on Tuesday, sparking clashes between supporters and police, which also took place on Saturday.

Khan’s aide Fawad Chaudhry told Reuters the former premier’s presence had been recorded officially by the court and he had left to return to his home in the city of Lahore.

According to reports, Khan’s vehicle reached the judicial complex in Islamabad amid clashes between police and his supporters. They reported that, given the chaos around the complex, he was unable to physically enter the courtroom and was ultimately allowed by the judge to sign his presence from his vehicle.

He was ordered to address charges in court on Saturday of unlawfully selling state gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries while in office.

Khan says he followed legal procedures in acquiring the gifts.

Earlier on Saturday, Pakistani police entered the property of the former prime minister in Lahore, officials from his political party said, as he was due to appear in court.

The move followed days of standoff and clashes between police and his supporters around the property.

Khan has led nationwide protests after he was ousted from power last year.

Khan, who was shot and wounded while campaigning in November, said in an interview the threat to his life was greater than before and added – without providing evidence – that his political opponents and the military want to block him from standing in elections later this year.

The military and government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The court previously issued arrest warrants for Khan in the case as he had failed to appear on previous hearings despite summons.

On his assurance that he would appear on Saturday, the court granted Khan protection against arrest, but he said he feared the police and government planned to take him into custody.

“It is now clear that, despite my having gotten bail in all my cases, the [Pakistan Democratic Movement coalition] govt intends to arrest me. Despite knowing their malafide intentions, I am proceeding to Islamabad & the court [because] I believe in rule of law,” Khan tweeted.

“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.”

Pakistan’s information minister said this week the government had nothing to do with the police action and that the police were complying with court orders.