Lahore: A Pakistani court on Thursday 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.
The decision is a reprieve for Khan, who was due to be arrested a few hours earlier. The Lahore High Court ordered police to suspend the plan to arrest the 70-year-old opposition leader until Friday. It also asked Khan’s 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 Khan’s house in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province. Despite the order, however, police and paramilitary rangers deployed for Khan’s arrest were not immediately withdrawn.
Usman Anwar, the police chief in the Punjab province, said the violence in Lahore began Tuesday when officers went to comply with the court order and arrest Khan. But, he said, Khan’s supporters started throwing stones at officers, who were unarmed and only carrying batons.
“We will comply with the court order, and we will do it,” he told a local Geo TV station.
In Islamabad, Khan’s legal team on Thursday asked judge Zafar Iqbal to suspend the arrest warrants he had issued last week for Khan, who is accused of illegally selling state gifts and concealing his assets.
Violence erupted in Lahore on Tuesday when about 1,000 supporters of Khan clashed with police when they tried to arrest the former premier at his house in the upscale area of Zaman Park.
On Wednesday, Khan said in a video message that he was ready to travel to Islamabad on March 18 to appear before the court, if he is not arrested. Khan also posed for cameras seated at a long table, showing off piles of spent tear gas shells he said had been collected from around his home.