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Pakistan on edge as court is asked to decide whether former PM Imran Khan goes free or is re-arrested

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is set to return to court to find out if he will be shielded from further arrest or returned to custody.

ISLAMABAD – Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is set to return to court on Friday to hear whether he will be shielded from further arrest or taken back into custody, a decision that has unnerved the Pakistani government and legions of supporters of Pakistan. Khan after days of violent confrontations. .

The popular 70-year-old opposition leader will appear before the same court from which he had been dragged and arrested on Tuesday. The arrest sparked nationwide protests in which his supporters attacked military installations, burned vehicles and ambulances, and looted general stores in various parts of the country. The violence drew government condemnation.

Friday’s court session is part of complex legal maneuvering.

On Thursday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court declared Khan’s arrest unlawful but then asked the Islamabad High Court, a lower court, to reconsider its initial decision to uphold the arrest.

The Supreme Court said it would abide by the Islamabad court’s ruling on Friday.

The government said it would quickly arrest Khan if the Islamabad High Court upheld its earlier warrant. Khan was arrested Tuesday by the National Accountability Office in connection with corruption charges.

Violence this week left at least 10 Khan supporters dead. Dozens of protesters and more than 200 police officers were injured. Protesters set trucks, cars and police vehicles on fire and blocked roads.

Khan, who was ousted as prime minister last year and leads the opposition, faces more than 100 legal cases, most related to allegations that he incited violence and threatened police and government officials. He also faces at least three corruption cases. A new terrorism charge was filed against him on Thursday for allegedly inciting his followers to violence after his arrest.

Under Pakistan’s legal system, a defendant can seek protection from arrest at court hearings. Khan is vulnerable to arrest because he has not obtained such protection in all cases against him.

Following the Supreme Court’s release order on Thursday, Khan spent a night at a government guest house in Islamabad, where he met with family and friends. The country’s president, Arif Alvi, also met with him.

Alvi has been trying to defuse tension between Khan and the government of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif to prevent an escalation in the country, which is accustomed to military takeovers, political crises and violence.

Since Tuesday, protesters have clashed with police, who have arrested nearly 3,000 supporters of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party. They include Khan’s deputies who have been jailed.

After Khan was released on Thursday, Sharif’s government criticized Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial for granting Khan a pardon. He alleged that Khan was involved in corruption and therefore should not have been released.

Sharif’s government accused the chief justice of bias.

Khan was overthrown in April 2022 due to lack of confidence in parliament. He claims his removal was part of a plot by the US, Sharif and the military, a charge all three have denied.

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