The Islamabad High Court (IHC) ruled on Friday that former Prime Minister Imran Khan must be released on bail for two weeks. The grant of bail came a day after Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled that Khan’s violent arrest by a paramilitary police unit on the grounds of the IHC was illegal.
Khan was arrested on Tuesday while undergoing biometric screening for an appearance at the IHC, where he was summoned to appear for one of the many corruption cases pending against him. Pakistan’s anti-corruption agency, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), dispatched the paramilitary Pakistan Rangers unit to seize Khan for a different corruption case.
Rangers abducted PTI Chairman Imran Khan, these are the visuals. Pakistan’s brave people must come out and defend their country. pic.twitter.com/hJwG42hsE4
— PTI (@PTIofficial) May 9, 2023
The Pak Rangers smashed their way into the IHC and reportedly injured court staffers, lawyers, and Khan himself in the process of making the arrest. These sudden and violent tactics were implicitly necessary because Khan’s supporters have a history of closing ranks around him to thwart arrests.
Khan and his PTI party insist all the charges against him are politically motivated. Khan accused the government of sitting Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif of trying to either kill him or throw him in jail to avoid facing him in a snap election. Khan said the powerful Pakistani Army was involved in the plot against him, an accusation the army vehemently denied.
Khan supporters took to the streets after his arrest, vandalizing both government and military facilities to express their outrage. The Army deployed troops and threatened to use decisive force if PTI supporters damaged any more military assets.
With tensions at the breaking point, the Pakistani Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Khan’s arrest was illegal for a variety of procedural reasons, and ordered his immediate release. He was not, in fact, immediately released, but on Friday the IHC set bail terms for him, as directed by the Supreme Court.
.@CordeliaSkyNews says re-arresting Imran Khan could trigger more widespread violence across Pakistan.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) May 12, 2023
“They had no justification to arrest me. I was abducted. It seems as if there was a law of jungle,” Khan complained.
Khan spent Thursday in custody, ostensibly for his own protection, and seemed likely to spend much of Friday at the IHC as his lawyers attempted to secure bail protection for many of the other cases pending against him.
“I will be arrested again and there will be a reaction, and then I will be held responsible. How can I be responsible for this? When the army arrests me as if I am a ‘terrorist’, will I still be responsible for a reaction? I do not know what is happening in the country,” Khan told his supporters from the courtroom.
“We have had historic rallies and we never had any such issues. There were sit-ins under my leadership and my control. I have always warned to not take the country to a point from where it gets out of our hands,” he said, implicitly threatening the government with chaos if he is arrested again, and thus prevented from keeping his supporters in line.
“Why are they then so adamant to arrest Imran? Let me tell you, any attempt to arrest Imran again will be unconstitutional,” Khan’s lawyer Babar Awan declared.
@javeednusrat said that while it appeared Khan was “invincible” after being granted protection from arrest by the courts, he warned that the ex-PM faced an uphill battle in going against Pakistan’s powerful military, in particular the army chief. https://t.co/FAJqgkbTDj
— Shah Meer Baloch (@ShahmeerAlbalos) May 12, 2023
“If there is a need, Imran Khan will be arrested. The government will not give any relief to Khan,” countered Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah.
According to PTI, Khan will depart for his residence in Lahore when he finishes with court proceedings, escorted by an army of his supporters. It will be quite a procession if Khan and his supporters use slow ground transportation the entire way, as Lahore is about 236 miles from Islamabad.
Prime Minister Sharif assailed the grant of bail to Khan, lamenting the favoritism that has destroyed the Pakistani justice system.
“When he was presented in court yesterday, the CJP said it is good to see you. And, he said this in a case of corruption,” Sharif grumbled, referring to the friendly greeting Khan received from Supreme Court Chief Justice Umar Bandial.
“If you want to keep favoring this ladla, then you should also release all the dacoits behind bars in the country. Let this be free for all,” Sharif said.
Ladla is an Urdu word meaning “pampered child” or “spoiled brat.” Sharif often uses the term for Khan when he complains that the Pakistani justice system seems unwilling to punish the former prime minister.
“No one spoke to Nawaz about injustices suffered by him. Such double standards have caused the death of justice in Pakistan,” Sharif complained. His brother Nawaz Sharif, also a former prime minister, has been arrested on several occasions and was jailed for seven years in 2018 on corruption charges. Shehbaz Sharif has been arrested as well. No Pakistani prime minister completes their term in office, and almost all of them get arrested sooner or later.
Maryam Nawaz Sharif, daughter of Nawaz and head of the Sharif dynasty’s PML-N party, went further on Thursday by demanding Chief Justice Bandial resign.
“The Chief Justice of Pakistan should leave the post and join the Tehreek-e-Insaf,” she snarled, using the full name of Imran Khan’s political party PTI. Later she noted that Bandial’s mother-in-law is a member of PTI.
“The Chief Justice was very happy today to see the person who embezzled Rs60 billion, and he was even more happy to release this criminal,” she said, harping on Bandial’s allegedly inappropriate friendliness toward Khan. The 60 billion rupees figure she cited referred to the corruption case Khan was arrested for by the NAB.
“The chief justice is responsible for the attacks on the most important and sensitive facilities of the country. He is shielding fitna and adding fuel to the fire,” Maryam Sharif said. Fitna is a term from Islamic law used to insultingly describe people who betray the public trust, such as embezzlers.
Sharif’s Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb also said the decision to release Khan would damage the Pakistani justice system.
“A person who has defied court, who does not abide by the law, who avoid courts and who thinks he’s untouchable and cannot be questioned, has to be treated the way every citizen is treated,” she told Sky News on Friday.pakistan
Aurangzeb dismissed Khan’s allegations that her government was trying to jail him for political reasons, or kill him.
“If we wanted to arrest him or silence him because of his popularity, we would not have waited 14 months,” she said.