A court in Islamabad has cancelled Imran Khan’s arrest warrant after intense clashes between police and the former prime minister’s supporters outside the judicial complex.
Khan officially appeared before the court in Pakistan’s capital on Saturday, complying with a judicial order that led to a failed attempt to arrest him on Tuesday. He is facing various legal challenges including unlawfully selling state gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries while in office from 2018 to 2022.
Khan says he followed legal procedures in acquiring the gifts.
There were clashes outside the court between police and Khan’s supporters. The Islamabad police alleged that Khan’s supporters shelled the judicial complex and set fire to a police post.
The local media reported that inside the courtroom people and judges faced difficulties due to the effects of the teargas used by the police.
The judge said during the hearing: “But what should we do if the situation is like this?” The judge allowed Khan to leave after recording his attendance.
Earlier on Saturday, Khan and his close aides accused Punjab police of entering his house after Khan left for court.
The move followed days of standoff and clashes between police and his supporters around the property.
Fawad Chaudhry, a former information minister and Khan’s close aide, said the police entry into Khan’s residence was in complete violation of the court’s order.
After the raid on Khan’s house, the inspector general of police addressed the media and said that they had recovered ammunition and petrol bombs from Khan’s residence in Lahore.
Pakistan electronic media regulatory authority banned television coverage of Khan’s appearance in the judicial complex and political rallies and there was a blackout of mobile internet services in Islamabad.
The court cases against Khan started after he was ousted from the office in a constitutional vote of no confidence. Since then he has held protest rallies across the country to demand a snap election. During one rally in November he was shot and wounded.
Pakistan’s prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, has rejected Khan’s demands and said that the election would take place on time.
However, Khan has also dissolved two provincial assemblies where his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has been in power. The supreme court has directed the government to make arrangements for elections which the government has been avoiding.
Michael Kugelman, a director at the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center, said: “We are seeing a rapidly intensifying confrontation between Khan and the state that turned on him.
“There are possible off-ramps – dialogue between the two sides, a formal announcement of an election date – but the political environment appears too charged to allow for de-escalation. Eventually, something has to give, and it may not be pretty,” Kugelman said.