Pakistan police postpone arrest of ex-PM Imran Khan, easing unrest


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Pakistan police postpone arrest of ex-PM Imran Khan, easing unrest

POSTPONED. Supporters of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan chant slogans, after police postpone the arrest of Khan, outside his home in Lahore, Pakistan, on March 15, 2023.

Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

The Lahore high court orders police to postpone their efforts to arrest Khan until March 16

LAHORE, Pakistan – A Pakistan court ordered police on Wednesday, March 15, to suspend an operation to arrest former Prime Minister Imran Khan, bringing a halt to pitched battles in which police baton-charged supporters of the former cricketer and fired water cannon and tear gas.

Security forces withdrew from around his home in the eastern city of Lahore, easing political instability in the nuclear-armed nation which is struggling with an economic crisis and awaiting an International Monetary Fund bailout.

The Lahore high court ordered police to postpone their efforts to arrest Khan until Thursday, March 16, provincial information minister Amir Mir told Reuters.

Earlier, a senior police official said security forces had withdrawn to accommodate cricket’s Pakistan Super League (PSL), the country’s top sporting event, which is being held at a stadium a few km (miles) away.

The operation to arrest Khan came after a lower court in the capital Islamabad issued a warrant against him for defying orders to present himself in court over charges that he unlawfully sold state gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries when he was prime minister from 2018 to 2022.

In a tweet, Khan said he had signed a “surety bond” that would guarantee his appearance in the court by a March 18 deadline, and senior aide Fawad Chaudhry said Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, had asked the court to stop the police action.

According to a list shared by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb last year, the gifts given to Khan include seven watches, including one valued at 85 million rupees (about $300,000).

The list, which Reuters could not independently verify, also contained perfumes, diamond jewelry and dinner sets.

Khan has denied wrongdoing.

Pakistan’s 2024 dollar-denominated bonds slumped almost 7 cents on the dollar US695847AK91=TE after the clashes, while the rest of the curve fell as much as 3.3 cents on the dollar.

Current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said a staff-level agreement with the IMF would come soon. Pakistan is expecting to unlock $1.1 billion from the IMF, which will be critical in helping it avoid defaulting on external debt obligations.

“Pakistan and the IMF do appear to be nearing a deal, but the IMF remain nervous,” said Gareth Leather, a senior economist in the Emerging Asia team at Capital Economics.

“Partly this is because of the country’s volatile politics. They could agree a deal with the current government, only to find it has been replaced a month later with a PM more hostile to the IMF.”

Legal proceedings against Khan began after he was ousted from office in a parliamentary vote early last year. Since then, he has held nationwide protest rallies demanding a snap election, during one of which he was shot and wounded.

Sharif has rejected Khan’s demands, saying the election will be held as scheduled later this year.

Political infighting is common in Pakistan, where no prime minister has yet fulfilled a full term and where the military has ruled for nearly half of the country’s history. –

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