Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan granted bail by Supreme Court amidst violent protests and UN calls for restraint

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan was granted bail by the country’s Supreme Court on Thursday, May 11. The court declared his arrest “illegal” and ordered his immediate release. Prior to this, Khan was presented before the court as per its orders. The Supreme Court has directed the National Accountability Bureau and Islamabad police to ensure his safety while he appears before the Islamabad High Court on Wednesday, May 17.

Khan was arrested on Tuesday, May 9, and was remanded to eight days in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau in connection with the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption case. After his arrest, violent protests erupted across Pakistan, leading to the deployment of the military in Islamabad, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan provinces. At least eight people have died in the violence that followed. Amidst this, the United Nations has called on Pakistan’s security forces to show restraint, while President Arif Alvi has expressed his sorrow over the entire incident.

The Supreme Court directed Khan to appear in the Islamabad High Court on Friday and comply with the legal process. The Chief Justice said, “Whatever decision the High Court gives, you will have to accept it.” Justice Bandial also said that it is the responsibility of every leader to ensure the rule of law.

During the hearing, Khan told the court that he was “kidnapped by the judiciary” when he was preparing to submit an appeal by giving biometric attendance. Khan claimed that he was subjected to violence, beaten with cruelty, and treated in a way that even criminals are not treated.

When the Chief Justice condemned the violence perpetrated by protesters, Khan distanced himself from the entire incident and said that he was under arrest. He said, “I was caught as if I were a terrorist. How can I be responsible for bloody protests?”

Khan said that he has never supported violence. He said, “I appeal to everyone to refrain from damaging public property.” The former Prime Minister said that he is only demanding new elections. Khan’s lawyers said outside the court that their client has also appealed to stop the protests.

The Supreme Court ordered his release, but he is still being held in custody.

“Justice Bhandari has said, ‘Khan will stay as a guest at the Atithi Griha (guest house) and the responsibility of his security will be with the government.’ He said, ‘You (Khan) stay there, meet the visitors and leave for home.’ Khan’s party has welcomed this decision.

Reacting to the decision of the Supreme Court, senior vice-president of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Maryam Nawaz, said that the Chief Justice should resign and join Khan’s party like his mother-in-law.

Maryam claimed that it seems that the Chief Justice is very happy after meeting with the accused of embezzling 60 billion rupees from the country’s treasury and is even more pleased to have released the alleged criminal.

She accused the Chief Justice of being responsible for attacks on important and sensitive institutions of the country. Maryam said that the Chief Justice is defending the troublemaker (Khan) and working to pour oil on the fire.”

Before the hearing began, the Chief Justice asked how a person could be arrested from the court premises. Justice Minallah said that Khan had certainly entered the court premises. He said, “How can someone be deprived of their rights to justice?”

The court also said that no one should be arrested in the court premises by any agency without the permission of the registrar. The court said that the intention of a person entering the court premises is to surrender to the court, so how can a person be arrested after surrendering?

Khan’s lawyer, Hamid Khan, informed the court that his clients had gone to the Islamabad High Court to obtain interim bail, but the Rangers arrested them. He alleged, “The Rangers misbehaved with Imran Khan and arrested him.”

United Nations Human Rights Chief, Michelle Bachelet, has appealed to the Pakistani government to ensure that the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are protected amidst ongoing protests in the country. Bachelet also called for an independent investigation into the recent violence that has occurred during the protests, including the killing of two police officers and several protesters.

Bachelet expressed concern about reports of excessive use of force by security forces, as well as reports of internet shutdowns and other restrictions on the media and freedom of expression. She stressed the importance of upholding the rule of law and protecting human rights during times of political unrest and called on all parties to engage in peaceful dialogue to resolve their differences.

The UN Human Rights Chief’s appeal came as Turkish Human Rights Chief, Volkan Turk, also called for an end to violence against protesters in Pakistan. Turk urged Pakistani security forces to exercise restraint and appealed for the rule of law to be upheld in order to resolve political disputes.

In a tweet, Turk said, “Internet service ban should be lifted. Freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and the rule of law are crucial for resolving political disputes. There is no place for excessive use of force. Protesters should be protected from violence.”

United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has also taken note of the situation in Pakistan. Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, Farhan Haq, said in a statement on Wednesday that Guterres had appealed to Pakistani officials to follow due process during the ongoing legal proceedings against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and to uphold the rule of law.

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