Pakistani court extends pause in bid to arrest ex-premier Imran Khan

Babar Dogar and Munir Ahmed, Associated Press

Supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan run for cover after police firing tear gas to disperse them during clashes, in Lahore, Pakistan, Wednesday, March 15, 2023. Supporters of Khan threw bricks at police who fought back with clubs and tear gas for a second day Wednesday after officers tried to arrest the ousted premier for failing to appear in court on graft charges.(AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

A Pakistani court has extended a pause in the effort to arrest former premier Imran Khan, a sign of easing tension in the country’s cultural capital after clashes erupted this week when police tried to detain him.

Lahore High Court ordered police to suspend the plan to arrest the 70-year-old opposition leader until Friday, and asked his legal team for talks to resolve the issue.

Thursday’s order sent a wave of relief through Khan’s stick-wielding supporters, who were prepared to prevent police from reaching his house in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province.

Despite the order, police and paramilitary rangers deployed for his arrest were not immediately withdrawn.

Usman Anwar, the police chief in Punjab province, said the violence in Lahore began on Tuesday when officers went to comply with the court order and arrest Khan. The former cricket star’s supporters started throwing stones at officers who were only carrying batons.

“We will comply with the court order, and we will do it,” the police chief told a local TV station.

In Islamabad, Khan’s legal team on Thursday asked judge Zafar Iqbal to suspend the arrest warrants he had issued last week over accusations that he had illegally sold state gifts and concealed his assets.

Judge Iqbal gave no indication of whether he will suspend the arrest warrants. Instead, he asked why Khan resisted when officers went to his house to arrest him. The judge said if Khan surrenders to the court now, he will stop police from arresting him.

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