A court has granted bail to Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan for two weeks in a corruption case and ordered his protection from arrest on any charges until Monday, amid concerns he would be immediately re-arrested on his release.
Security was tight as Khan appeared at a hearing at Islamabad high court on Friday seeking bail in multiple cases. He had been in police custody since Tuesday after being arrested on the premises of the court by almost 100 paramilitary officers.
To the anger of the government, Khan was granted relief on Thursday when the supreme court ruled that the manner of his arrest, on court premises, was illegal, and ordered him to seek bail from the high court. He stayed overnight at a police guesthouse but was no longer a detainee.
On Friday, judges in Islamabad high court formally granted Khan bail for two weeks in the Al Qadir case, involving allegations of illegal land transfers. The judge also granted Khan bail in four other cases against him and barred authorities from arresting Khan in any cases across the country until Monday.
Khan and his lawyer had expressed concern that he faced the threat of re-arrest in relation to some of the dozens of other cases he is facing. “I am 100% concerned that I will be arrested again,” Khan told local media on his way into the courtroom. He said that if he was arrested again, the cycle of violence would continue.
Khan’s lawyer, Babar Awan, claimed the Lahore and Punjab police were travelling to Islamabad high court to arrest Khan. “Why are they then so adamant to arrest Imran? Let me tell you, any attempt to arrest Imran again will be unconstitutional,” he told reporters.
The government, led by the prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, accused the supreme court of “hypocrisy” over its verdict and said leaders of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party were “pushing the country towards destruction”.
The interior minister, Rana Sanaullah, made it clear that Khan was not safe from arrest despite the directions by the court. “We will try to get his bail nullified,” he said. “And if he is given bail in some cases and some cases are still left, we will definitely arrest him.”
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the president of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – the political coalition that governs Pakistan under Sharif – accused the supreme court of “protecting terrorism” in granting relief to Khan.
The crackdown on members of the PTI party continued in the early hours of Friday as two more senior leaders, Yasmin Rashid and Shireen Mazari, were arrested in Lahore and Islamabad, bringing the total of detained PTI leaders to seven.
Khan has denied all charges against him as politically motivated. His popularity has risen since he was removed from power in April last year, accusing the country’s powerful military, once his close ally, of orchestrating his downfall and accusing senior military leaders of attempts to assinate him. As the number of cases mounted against him, Khan’s arrest had seemed likely for months and he had already managed to elude an attempt by police to detain him March.
The violent protests that erupted across the country this week largely abated after the supreme court ruling, but the army was still present on the streets and an emergency law preventing gatherings was imposed by police in the capital. More than 2,000 people have been arrested and mobile internet remains shut down across the country.
On Friday, Khan called on thousands of his supporters to gather in Islamabad where he promised to address them after his court appearance.
Hammad Azhar, a senior PTI figure, said: “Imran Khan has given a message that an attempt is being made to arrest him again and he wants the entire country to come out in peaceful protest.”