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Pakistan court orders halting of operation to arrest Imran Khan

The court orders the operation suspended until Thursday as security forces withdraw from the Lahore area, near the former prime minister’s home.

Islamabad, Pakistan – A court in the Pakistani city of Lahore has ordered the immediate halt to a two-day operation to arrest former Prime Minister Imran Khan until Thursday morning.

Security forces made their first attempt to take into custody the leader of Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party on Tuesday afternoon, after a court in Islamabad issued an arrest warrant to ensure he would appear in court on March 18 after he had repeatedly skipped hearings in a case related to the sale of state gifts.

But they were confronted by hundreds of Khan’s supporters who gathered outside his Zaman Park residence in Lahore and tried to prevent the arrest. Dozens were injured as security forces fired tear gas and water cannons and threw stones at Khan supporters.

The tense standoff continued on Wednesday, but in the afternoon the Lahore High Court issued an order to halt the operation until 10:00 am (05:00 GMT) on Thursday following a petition filed earlier by the PTI.

The PTI has also filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Islamabad seeking the revocation of the arrest warrant. A decision is expected to be made later on Wednesday.

The order from the Lahore court came shortly after security forces withdrew from the area outside Khan’s residence. Provincial authorities said the withdrawal was made to allow for a cricket match to be played in Lahore later on Wednesday.

The situation remained calm but tense outside Khan’s residence as PTI supporters celebrated preventing Khan’s arrest for a second day in a row.

Earlier, Khan had delivered a speech accusing the government of plotting to disqualify him from running in elections.

“What is this order that the police are here for?” asked the cricketer-turned-politician. “All that shelling, such a strong use of force as if a terrorist is hiding. What is this?” he continued, surrounded by empty tear gas canisters.

Khan, who was prime minister from 2018 until April last year when he lost a vote of confidence in parliament, said he signed a surety guaranteeing his presence in court on March 18, but claimed police refused to accept it. to take.

“By law, the police should have realized I was willing to go to court and stop attempts to arrest me, but they didn’t.”

Meanwhile, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb claimed that the security personnel involved in the operation to arrest Khan, including the paramilitary Pakistan Rangers, had been attacked by police officers from the Gilgit-Baltistan region.

Gilgit-Baltistan is an autonomous region in northern Pakistan, the government of which is currently controlled by Khan’s PTI.

“PTI unleashed its henchmen along with the Gilgit-Baltistan Police to attack and challenge the police,” Aurangzeb told a news conference in Islamabad.

“The police cannot continue to carry out an order from the court while the court continues to provide aid to Khan,” said Aurangzeb.