Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan left a high court in Islamabad on Friday after being granted broad protection from arrest in multiple legal cases against him. The ruling struck a blow to the government in a stand-off that has sparked days of rioting by Khan's followers and raised the specter of widespread unrest in the country.
After the court granted him bail, Khan spent hours more in the building, as he and his legal team were locked in apparent negotiations over his exit from the site.
As he headed to his home in the eastern city of Lahore, Khan put out a video statement from his vehicle saying the Islamabad police tried to keep him within the courthouse through different tactics, and authorities allowed him to travel only when he threatened to tell the public he was being held there against his will.
He arrived at his home in the early hours of Saturday morning and was greeted by thousands of supporters, who danced, distributed sweets, set off fireworks and showered his car with rose petals in celebration of his release.
Security was extremely tight around the court ahead of Khan's departure as authorities expressed concerns for the former leader's safety. In the evening, shots were heard in the area of the courthouse. Police were investigating who opened fire, the interior minister said. Clashes between his supporters and police have periodically erupted outside the building.
The long list of around 100 court cases, on charges ranging from fomenting violence to corruption, still stands against Khan. But the week's turmoil illustrated the danger of moving against him. After he was abruptly arrested on Tuesday, widescale protests erupted, turning into clashes with police and mob attacks on government buildings and even military installations.
The court's ruling was a victory for Khan, and averted any new arrest for the time being. The Islamabad High Court gave him protection for two weeks on one graft charge and protection until Monday on a host of other charges in a measure called 'anticipatory bail.' The protections in each case can be extended, but it was not immediately clear if that meant a new court hearing on Monday.
Source: Somali National News Agency