Khan’s arrest on Tuesday, which involved armed security agents dragging him out of the Islamabad court, resulted in two days of violent protests across the country, causing damage to government and military buildings, including an army commander’s residence. The chaos led to the arrest of at least 2,000 activists from Khan’s political party, including senior leaders, and killed at least eight people.
Under tight security, Imran Khan arrived at the Islamabad High Court on Friday morning. He was granted bail in the corruption case and received an order to prevent his arrest for at least two weeks. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) later announced that Khan would return home to Lahore after being released from court custody, which was expected to happen quickly.
Meanwhile, thousands of Khan’s supporters gathered near the court building on the party’s orders and clashed with police and security forces. Several senior PTI members were arrested overnight by the police. The party has not openly condemned the attacks on government facilities, but its senior members have repeatedly urged the protesters to remain peaceful.
At the court premises, PTI-affiliated lawyers had gathered and chanted slogans to support Khan, who raised his fist in response as he entered. Following his removal from office in April through a no-confidence vote, Khan has demanded immediate elections and criticized the military’s role in his ousting. Khan has also alleged that the November assassination attempt on him resulted from a conspiracy involving high-ranking military and government officials.
As an opposition figure in Pakistan, Khan has faced over 100 legal cases, a common tactic used by the government, backed by the military, to suppress dissent, according to human rights groups.
Khan, who before becoming prime minister was worshipped in Pakistan as the country’s most successful cricket captain, was arrested Tuesday at the Islamabad High Court on the orders of the country’s top anti-corruption agency.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court declared the arrest unlawful because it occurred on court premises, where Khan had intended to file a bail application.
Pakistan’s current Prime Minister, Shahbaz Sharif, has accused the judiciary of displaying double standards and acting as an “iron shield” for Khan following the Islamabad high court’s decision to grant him bail.
Sharif raised concerns about the past treatment of politicians in fake cases and questioned whether any court had taken notice. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling on Khan’s arrest, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has refused to back down. He has stated that they will wait for the cancellation of bail before arresting Khan again.
The violent reaction to Khan’s arrest has contributed to instability in Pakistan, which is already facing economic challenges such as high inflation, weak growth, and delayed IMF bailout funding.