Pakistan Court Cancels Arrest Warrant for Ex-PM Khan Amid Swelling Legal Cases

A federal court in Pakistan suspended an arrest warrant Friday for the country’s populist former prime minister, Imran Khan, clearing the way for him to appear before a judge on Saturday to answer charges of unlawfully selling state gifts given to him during his four-year rule. The verdict also eased a tense standoff between Khan’s supporters and law enforcement personnel outside his residence in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, where dozens of people were injured on both sides. The clashes erupted on Tuesday when police tried to arrest the leader of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI, party for failing to appear before the trial court in the national capital, Islamabad, to face the graft allegations. Khan, who was shot in the leg during a political rally last November, has defended his absence from the legal proceedings, saying authorities did not provide him with adequate security during his previous court appearances. The cricket-hero-turned-politician was ousted from office last April by a parliamentary no-confidence vote. He has since been slapped with dozens of legal challenges across Pakistan — ranging from sedition and terrorism to corruption charges — his lawyers told a provincial court in Lahore on Friday. “There are 94 cases against me. If six more are registered, it will make it a century,” Khan said while attending legal proceedings in Lahore before being granted protective bail by the provincial court in eight cases registered against him under terrorism charges. Khan denies all the allegations, saying his successor, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, is behind the cases to prevent him from contesting elections and staging a comeback to power. He also has accused the government of unleashing a crackdown on PTI leaders and workers to deter them from participating in elections scheduled for later this year. The government rejects the charges, saying it has nothing to do with the opposition leader’s legal challenges nor is it targeting the opposition party. Khan alleged in a tweet Friday that authorities had carried out fresh raids against his party workers in Islamabad. “Today, they have arbitrarily arrested more than 70 of our workers in Islamabad. This is condemnable & absolutely unacceptable. They must be released immediately,” tweeted Khan, who remains the most popular politician in Pakistan, according to the latest surveys. There was no immediate government reaction to the charges. Khan has been demanding a snap election at massive protest rallies his party has organized across the country since his ouster. The campaign was disrupted by the November gun attack on him. He has accused Sharif and an unnamed army general, among others, of plotting to kill him. Sharif has rejected the charges and dismissed Khan’s demands for early elections as unconstitutional. The political turmoil comes as Pakistan struggles with a deepening economic crisis. The Sharif administration’s attempts to persuade the International Monetary Fund to resume critical lending to his cash-strapped country have failed so far because of a lack of key reforms. Security in the country also has deteriorated recently in the wake of growing militant attacks, mostly claimed by the outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, also known as the Pakistani Taliban.

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