ISLAMABAD (HPD) — Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered the release of former Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday, two days after his arrest sparked violent protests.
The president of the highest court, Umar Ata Bandial, also asked Khan to call on his supporters to remain calm.
Groups of Khan’s supporters danced near the courthouse, celebrating his release.
After being ousted by a vote in parliament, Khan has had to face numerous corruption cases in Pakistani courts.
After several days of clashes between protesters and police, and mob attacks on military and government headquarters, the authorities had cracked down on the protests, arresting more than 2,000 people in a series of operations across the country.
The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Khan’s arrest was illegal, and the court’s chief urged the former president to ask his supporters to remain peaceful. The government had warned that letting Khan go free would reward and encourage violent behavior.
Although Khan has been released, he will remain under the protection of security forces in a secure location in the capital, Islamabad, his lead lawyer, Babar Awan, told reporters. Khan will appear in court in Islamabad on Friday, Awan said.
For this nation accustomed to military uprisings, political crises and violence, the turbulence is unprecedented. He recalled the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto at a rally in Rawalpindi. Her supporters at the time, angered by the crime, staged riots for several days.
Khan, who was ousted by parliament a year ago, faces several corruption charges in Pakistani courts. But his arrest was a shocking and dramatic move: He was in court on Tuesday responding to a series of charges when anti-corruption officers stormed the courtroom, took him away and put him in an armored car to face another list of charges. .
In the ensuing violence, at least 10 supporters were killed and dozens were injured, and more than 200 police officers were injured. Protesters set fire to trucks, cars and police patrols and blocked roads. A mob has set fire to the house of an army commander in Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city.
Awan, Khan’s top lawyer, stressed that Khan is “a free citizen” who will be able to meet with lawyers and supporters.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan, speaking to Pakistan’s Dunya TV, said “we will arrest him again,” probably on charges announced the day before, of inciting violence. The minister is not related to the former prime minister.
Reporters Babar Dogar in Lahore and Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan contributed to this story.