Pakistan court halts police operation to arrest ex-PM Imran Khan

LAHORE, March 17 — A Pakistan high court today cancelled an arrest warrant for former Prime Minister Imran Khan, local media reported, defusing a volatile stand-off between his supporters and security forces that had escalated into clashes earlier this week.

News network Geo TV said the Islamabad high court had cancelled the warrant to allow Khan to appear before the court on Saturday over charges that he unlawfully sold state gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries when he was prime minister from 2018 to 2022.

Khan denies the charges. The Election Commission of Pakistan had found him guilty and barred him from holding public office for one parliamentary term.

Khan’s political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, had filed a plea to the court, and another high court in Lahore, to stop the police from carrying out the arrest.

The former international cricketer was seen being taken by car to the court in Lahore from his home, which was the scene of pitched battles between security forces which used water cannons and tear gas against petrol-bomb hurling supporters trying to stop them.

The legal proceedings against the former cricket star began after he was ousted from office in a parliamentary vote early last year.

Since then, Khan, 70, has been demanding a snap election and holding protests across the country. He was shot and wounded at one of those rallies.

Current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has rejected Khan’s demands, saying an election would be held as scheduled later this year.

The political wrangling comes as nuclear-armed Pakistan struggles with an economic crisis. It is awaiting a bailout package of US$1.1 billion (RM4.9 billion) from the IMF. — Reuters