Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has agreed to comply with a court summons, amidst violent clashes between his supporters and security forces that were trying to arrest him. The unrest has further exacerbated the already unstable situation in nuclear-armed Pakistan, as the country faces an economic crisis and is awaiting an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout.
Khan is facing charges of unlawfully selling state gifts he received from foreign dignitaries during his tenure as prime minister from 2018 to 2022. A lower court in Islamabad had issued an arrest warrant against him last week for defying orders to present himself in court. His supporters reacted violently, pelting stones at security forces, who responded with tear gas and water cannons near Khan’s residence in Lahore.
In a recent tweet, Khan announced that he had signed a “surety bond” guaranteeing his appearance in court by March 18. His party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, has requested the court to prevent the police from arresting him. “We have asked the police to wait until the court decision on the matter,” said Fawad Chaudhry, a senior aide and former information minister. It is unclear when the court will make a decision.
Khan was removed from office in a parliamentary vote in early 2022. Since then, he has demanded a snap election and held nationwide protest rallies, even suffering a gunshot wound at one of these events. Current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has rejected Khan’s demands, stating that the election will be held as scheduled later this year.
Despite the controversy, Khan, a 70-year-old former international cricketer turned politician, retains a significant support base in Pakistan. In a video message, he accused the government of attempting to arrest him and urged his supporters to continue their struggle. “If anything happens to me, or I go to prison, or they kill me, you have to prove that this nation will continue to struggle even without Imran Khan,” he said.
Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb clarified that the government had no involvement in the arrest warrant against Khan and that the matter was in the hands of the courts. She criticized Khan for breaking the law and using his party workers as human shields to evade arrest and provoke unrest.