Lahore court grants protective bail to ex-Pakistani PM Imran Khan

In a separate case, the Islamabad High Court suspends an arrest warrant issued against the PTI chief.

A supporter of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, gestures as others gather outside Khan's house, in Lahore
Supporters of Imran Khan gathered outside the former prime minister's house in Lahore [Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

The Lahore High Court has granted protective bail to former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in multiple legal cases filed against him earlier this week.

The development on Friday came after days of a tense standoff between Khan’s supporters and security forces outside his residence in Lahore, which had escalated into clashes as the officers tried to arrest him on a separate court order.

Accompanied by a large number of supporters, Khan on Friday arrived in the Lahore court to seek protective bail in the cases that were filed  in Lahore and Islamabad in the aftermath of the confrontations. Accusations included rioting, attempt to murder, abetment of violence and criminal conspiracy under the country’s anti-terrorism law, among others.

The two-member bench granted Khan, who heads the Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, a 10-day relief for the cases filed in Lahore and set a March 24 deadline for the cases registered in Islamabad.

Reporting from Lahore, Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder said the cases “pertained to the resistance that Khan’s supporters showed towards the police when they came to arrest him”.

“For the first time we see a ray of home from a crisis that everyone in Pakistan has been watching nervously,” he added after the court’s decision.

“There have also been some signals coming from the government, that the Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is extending an olive branch, and Khan also said that, in the interest of the country, he would like to find a settlement to all this,” Hyder said, surrounded by jubilant PTI supporters.

Separately on Friday, the Islamabad High Court decided to suspend the arrest warrant issued against him in an alleged corruption case. The court ordered him to appear before a lower court in the capital on Saturday.

“We will ensure Imran Khan’s appearance in court tomorrow [Saturday],” Khan’s lawyer Faisal Fareed Chaudhry told Al Jazeera.

The warrant related to his non-appearance in the court to answer a case brought by the Election Commission of Pakistan accusing him of not declaring gifts received during his time as prime minister from 2018 to 2022 or the profit made from selling them. Khan denies the charges, saying they are politically motivated.

In an interview with Al Jazeera on Thursday, Khan had also said he planned to appear before the Islamabad court.

Pakistan Imran Khan
Khan’s supporters gather with sticks near his Zaman Park residence in Lahore [KM Chaudhry/AP]

PTI leader Musarrat Cheema said Khan “never shied away from appearing before the court and it was only due to the security concerns”.

“Imran Khan never intended to embarrass the courts,” she said. “All he said was that the location of the court is congested, and he has genuine security concerns due to which he asked for a possibility of clubbing all the cases together. However, he has now given assurance of his appearance in Islamabad tomorrow [Saturday]. He will be there.”

Khan, a former cricket star, also told Al Jazeera at least 85 cases have been filed against him since he was removed from office in a parliamentary vote in April.

Since then, he has been holding public rallies to demand immediate national elections. He was shot and wounded at one of those rallies in November.

Khan told Al Jazeera that the people who want to arrest him are the same people who tried to assassinate him.

“I believe the same people now trying to put me in jail were responsible for the attempt on my life,” he said, without giving any names.

Additional reporting by Al Jazeera’s Abid Hussain in Islamabad

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies