Islamabad, Pakistan – A Pakistani court has granted a two-week bail to former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was arrested on corruption charges this week.
A two-member bench of the Islamabad High Court on Friday granted bail to the country’s main opposition leader after his arrest by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), an anti-corruption agency.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
The chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was arrested on Tuesday from the premises of the same court.
On Thursday evening, the Supreme Court declared Khan’s arrest “unlawful” and instructed authorities to present Khan before the Islamabad High Court on Friday.
Khan’s bail plea in the Al-Qadir Trust case was scheduled to be heard on Friday morning, but it was delayed for nearly four hours with a prayer break in between.
The cricketer-turned-politician has been charged in more than 100 cases – including corruption, “terrorism” and blasphemy – since his removal from power last year in a parliamentary no-confidence vote.
The Al-Qadir Trust case concerns land that Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi bought from property tycoon Malik Riaz for their Al-Qadir University Trust to build an educational institute. The NAB has alleged that Khan’s PTI government struck a deal with Riaz in a quid pro quo arrangement in which it is accused of helping Riaz launder more than $239m while causing a loss to the national exchequer.
While waiting for the resumption of his high court hearing, Khan told reporters he had been “abducted” from the court premises on Tuesday.
“I was sitting in the high court. They had no reason to arrest me. I was abducted from here. And when I was taken away, only then I was shown the warrant for arrest,” the 70-year-old said.
“Is this the rule of jungle? And the military abducted me. Where is the police? Where is the law? It almost seems like martial law has been declared here,” Khan said.
Khan’s arrest sparked deadly countrywide protests, which saw his supporters fight with police and paramilitary forces. Angry crowds in several cities stormed public and private buildings, including military installations, and set many of them on fire.
At least 11 people are reported to have been killed in this week’s protests and dozens injured. Authorities said they have made more than 2,500 arrests, including top PTI leaders.
To restore order, the government deployed the military in Islamabad as well as in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces – both strongholds of Khan’s party.
Mobile internet access has been down for days across the country to curb the protests while social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been blocked on government orders.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government on Thursday promised to rearrest Khan if he was provided relief by the Islamabad court.
“We will arrest him again. If he gets bail from the high court tomorrow [Friday], we will wait for the cancellation of bail and arrest him again,” Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah told a private TV channel.