The Supreme Court of Pakistan has made a ruling declaring the recent arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan on corruption charges as illegal. Mr. Imran Khan’s lawyers had contested that his detention on Tuesday from court premises in Islamabad was against the law, and the court has subsequently ordered his immediate release.
The detention had provoked a series of violent protests throughout the country, resulting in at least 10 casualties and the arrest of over 2,000 individuals. The incident further escalated the tensions that had been mounting between Mr. Imran Khan and the military in recent times.
The opposition leader, who had been removed from his position through a vote of no confidence in April of the previous year, was ordered to appear in court by Pakistan’s top judge. As he entered the courtroom, surrounded by security, media outlets rushed to capture his first public appearance since his arrest. Mr. Imran Khan made no statements as he walked to the wood-panelled courtroom, which was filled with party officials and journalists.
In front of three judges of the Supreme Court, Mr. Imran Khan was flanked by his lawyers while they informed him that his arrest on Tuesday was deemed invalid due to the manner in which it was conducted, inside a court complex during biometric testing. Footage of the arrest showed paramilitary forces seizing Mr. Imran Khan, who had been injured in a gun attack the previous year, and forcibly removing him from the court premises in an armored vehicle.
Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial stated, “Your arrest was invalid, so the whole process needs to be backtracked,” and added that Mr. Imran Khan would now be under the protection of the Supreme Court.
In response, Mr. Imran Khan spoke out in a defiant and indignant manner, expressing his dissatisfaction with the way he had been arrested.
During the hearing, Imran Khan made a statement to the judges claiming that he had been forcibly taken from the High Court on Tuesday and beaten with sticks. However, the judges reminded him that there were others who had faced even worse treatment.
As of now, there has been no immediate response from the security forces regarding Mr. Imran Khan’s allegation.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of Imran Khan claims that the charges against him are politically motivated. The detention of the former prime minister has outraged his supporters, leading to violent protests and rare attacks on state and military facilities in the past 48 hours.
Among those arrested are seven senior PTI leaders, including former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who has been accused by the police of “inciting violence.” In response, Mr Qureshi denied the allegations and urged his supporters to continue with peaceful demonstrations.
Mr. Imran Khan has been held at a police guesthouse in the capital since Tuesday. On Wednesday, a makeshift court was set up at the guesthouse, where a judge formally charged him with corruption for the first time in the multiple cases he faces. He pleaded not guilty.
If found guilty, the former international cricket star and prime minister from 2018 to 2022 could be barred from standing for office, possibly for life. Elections are scheduled to take place later this year.
Supreme Court’s ruling would help to calm the anger of Imran Khan’s supporters. She noted that the past few days had seen violent protests from Khan’s supporters, who were furious about the manner in which he was arrested.
The court ordered that Imran Khan must remain at a police guesthouse due to the security situation, despite his requests to be allowed to stay at home. However, the judges repeatedly emphasized that he was allowed to have whoever he chose as a guest.
After the proceedings, Imran Khan spoke to the media for 15 minutes. He said that he was unaware of the deaths that had occurred during the protests or that senior members of his party had been arrested. He also stated that when he was arrested, he had been hit on the head and was bleeding. He said that the reaction of his supporters was not surprising when those images circulated around the world.
When asked if he would ask his supporters to stop the violent protests, he replied that he had always called for peaceful protests. Some of Imran Khan’s supporters welcomed the court’s decision. One man who had been gathered outside the PTI leader’s residence in Lahore said that Khan’s release proved they knew the truth. Another supporter said that the verdict had given them hope for the nation.
According to many analysts, Mr. Imran Khan’s victory in the 2018 election was allegedly assisted by the military, despite denials from both parties. However, he later fell out of favor with the powerful army, and after facing a series of defections and a mounting economic crisis, he lost his parliamentary majority.
Since his ousting less than four years into his term, Mr. Imran Khan has become one of the military’s most vocal critics, and as a result, the army’s popularity has declined. In November 2022, he was shot in the leg while leading a protest march and accused a senior intelligence official of orchestrating the attack, which the military denied.
Just a day before his recent arrest, the military warned Mr. Khan to stop making “baseless allegations” after he again accused a senior officer of plotting to assassinate him. These events have led observers to believe that the country is facing a never-before-seen series of crises, with ongoing political turmoil, an economy on the brink of collapse, and mounting violence by Islamist extremists eroding confidence in the security forces.