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Imran Khan

Pakistan police postpone arrest of ex-PM Imran Khan, easing unrest

Pakistan police postpone arrest of ex-PM Imran Khan, easing unrest
Supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan clash with police as they gather outside Khan's residence to resist his arrest in Lahore, Pakistan, 15 March 2023. Hundreds of PTI supporters continue to clash with riot police and rangers as they reached the residence of former prime minister Imran Khan on 15 March, to arrest the embattled politician in eastern Lahore city. Khan is accused of illegally selling state gifts from foreign dignitaries and of failing to declare them to the electoral commission among his assets. The development came a day after an Islamabad district and sessions court again issued arrest warrants for Khan after he continuously skipped hearings in the case. EPA-EFE/RAHAT DAR 10116

LAHORE, Pakistan, March 15 (Reuters) - A Pakistan court ordered police on Wednesday to suspend an operation to arrest former Prime Minister Imran Khan, bringing a halt to pitched battles in which police baton-charged supporters of the former cricketer and fired water cannon and tear gas.

Security forces withdrew from around his home in the eastern city of Lahore, easing political instability in the nuclear-armed nation which is struggling with an economic crisis and awaiting an International Monetary Fund bailout.

The Lahore high court ordered police to postpone their efforts to arrest Khan until Thursday, provincial information minister Amir Mir told Reuters.

Earlier, a senior police official said security forces had withdrawn to accommodate cricket’s Pakistan Super League (PSL), the country’s top sporting event, which is being held at a stadium a few km (miles) away.

The operation to arrest Khan came after a lower court in the capital Islamabad issued a warrant against him for defying orders to present himself in court over charges that he unlawfully sold state gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries when he was prime minister from 2018 to 2022.

In a tweet, Khan said he had signed a “surety bond” that would guarantee his appearance in the court by a March 18 deadline, and senior aide Fawad Chaudhry said Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, had asked the court to stop the police action.

According to a list shared by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb last year, the gifts given to Khan include seven watches, including one valued at 85 million rupees (about $300,000).

The list, which Reuters could not independently verify, also contained perfumes, diamond jewellery and dinner sets.

Khan has denied wrongdoing.

The legal proceedings against Khan began after he was ousted from office in a parliamentary vote early last year. Since then, he has held nationwide protest rallies demanding a snap electionduring one of which he was shot and wounded.

Current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has rejected Khan’s demands, saying the election will be held as scheduled later this year.

Political infighting is common in Pakistan, where no prime minister has yet fulfilled a full term and where the military has ruled for nearly half of the country’s history.

By Mubasher Bukhari

(Reporting by Mubasher Bukhari and Asif Shazhad, writing by Miral Fahmy; editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan nd Nick Macfie)

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