Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan appeared at court on Friday after an arrest warrant against him was suspended, allowing him to end a days-long holdout at his residence.
Khan was ousted by a no-confidence vote last year and has been snarled in dozens of legal cases as he campaigns for early elections and a return to office.
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Attempts by police this week to arrest the 70-year-old former international cricket star in the eastern city of Lahore led to pitched battles with supporters outside his home.
The warrant relates to his non-appearance in an Islamabad court to answer a case brought by the Election Commission of Pakistan accusing him of not declaring gifts received during his time as premier, or the profit made from selling them.
“The Islamabad High Court has suspended a non-bailable arrest warrant,” said Faisal Chaudhry, a senior member of Khan’s legal team, confirming that he will appear before judges in Islamabad on Saturday.
After the warrant was lifted, Khan left his home for the first time in days to appear in court in Lahore in a case related to this week’s clashes.
Dozens of supporters mobbed his convoy as it slowly exited the compound, cheering and waving flags of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
“They came up with another eight terrorist cases… in all those cases the bail has been allowed,” Fawad Chaudhry, a senior PTI leader, told AFP.
Overnight Tuesday police and paramilitary rangers clashed repeatedly with PTI supporters in the plush Zaman Park neighbourhood, firing fusillades of teargas and dodging rocks thrown by angry crowds.
Since then, PTI supporters have kept a vigil outside his home, wary of police returning to arrest him.
– Security concerns –
Khan says he fears for his life if detained, and that authorities want him jailed to prevent him from contesting an election that must be held by October this year.
“We have serious reservations about his security,” Shibli Faraz, Khan’s chief of staff, said Friday.
Pakistan’s courts are often used to tie up lawmakers in lengthy proceedings that rights monitors criticise for stifling political opposition.
As the political drama unfolds, Pakistan is in the grip of a stark economic downturn, risking default if help cannot be secured from the International Monetary Fund.
The security situation is also deteriorating with a spate of deadly attacks on police, linked to the Pakistan Taliban.
Khan has been pressuring the coalition government that replaced him, led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, with popular rallies and daily addresses broadcast on social media.
Last year Khan was shot in the leg during a political rally, an assassination bid he blamed on Sharif.
Joe STENSON and Kaneez FATIMA