Former prime minister Imran Khan on Friday got blanket relief from Islamabad High Court (IHC) as it barred the authorities from arresting him in any case till Monday morning (May 15).
A two-member special divisional bench granted two-week bail to the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan in the Al-Qadir Trust corruption case.
The court also ordered that Imran Khan cannot be arrested on any charges filed after last Tuesday until May 17th.
Despite the rulings, the corruption charges against Imran Khan still stand. He is facing over 120 cases including allegedly committing treason and blasphemy and inciting violence and terrorism.
A conviction would disqualify the former international cricket star – and Pakistan’s prime minister from 2018 to 2022 – from standing for office, possibly for life. Elections are due later this year.
Speaking during Friday’s hearing, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said the arrest was unlawful because it took place on court premises.
He ordered that the “whole process” of Imran Khan’s arrest “needs to be backtracked”.
The 70-year-old – arrested on May 9th as he arrived at a courthouse in Islamabad – pleaded not guilty to the charges when a judge formally indicted him with corruption for the first time in the dozens of cases he faces.
Officials say Imran Khan unlawfully sold state gifts during his premiership, in a case brought by Pakistan’s Election Commission.
A most vocal critic of the establishment
The dramatic saga has significantly escalated tensions between Imran Khan and Pakistan’s powerful military.
Many analysts believe Khan’s election win in 2018 happened with the help of the military, which both parties denied.
But he later fell out with the army. After a series of defections, and amid mounting economic crises, he lost his majority in Parliament.
Since being ousted less than four years into his term, he has become one of the military’s most vocal critics, and analysts say the army’s popularity has fallen.
Since being ousted from office last April, Khan has waged a campaign for snap elections and fired unprecedented criticism at the coalition government and military who he blames for pulling him from power.
He has accused senior military and government officials of plotting a November assassination attempt that saw him shot in the leg during a rally.
Imran Khan is the only Pakistani prime minister to be ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament
PTI says the charges against him – which relate to gifts given to him by foreign leaders while he served as prime minister – are politically motivated.
On Tuesday, his dramatic arrest outside the courthouse sparked outrage among Khan’s supporters.
At least 10 people were killed and some 2,000 were arrested as unrest swept the country. Those protests included an attack at a military commander’s home residence in Lahore, which was set on fire.
While this week’s violence petered out after the army was deployed in Islamabad and other areas, such as Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the country remains on edge.
Critics say the PTI has been fuelling unrest through social media posts calling for protesters to take to the streets, and judges told Imran Khan that he must condemn the violence and tell supporters to stop.
Khan says he and his party only call for peaceful protest.
Shehbaz Sharif criticizes judges
Pakistan’s current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who took power after Khan was ousted, criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling to free Imran Khan in a cabinet speech.
He alleged that judges had favoured Imran Khan, and their ruling had caused “the death of justice in Pakistan”.
He further criticized Khan and his party for their inflammatory language and encouraging protesters to take to the streets.
“Imran Khan has divided the nation,” he said.
He questioned the Supreme Court’s granting of relief to its “ladla” Imran Khan, saying its “double standards” have led to the death of justice in Pakistan.
“If you want to keep favouring this ladla (pampered), then you should also release all the dacoits behind bars in the country. Let this be free for all,” he said while addressing the federal Cabinet on Friday.
Al-Qadir Trust case
The former prime minister, along with his wife Bushra Bibi and other PTI leaders, is facing a NAB inquiry related to a settlement between the PTI government and property tycoon Riaz Malik, which reportedly caused a loss of 190 million pounds to the national exchequer.
As per the charges, Khan and the other accused allegedly adjusted Rs. 50 billion — 190 million pounds at the time — sent by Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) to the government.
They are also accused of getting undue benefit in the form of over 458 Kanals of a piece of land in Mouza Bakrala, Sohawa, of establishing Al-Qadir University.