Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ruled the arrest of former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s arrest this week as illegal and ordered his immediate release.
The top court’s order on Thursday, came after Khan’s legal team challenged his arrest by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Tuesday.
His lawyers had argued that his detention from court premises in Islamabad was unlawful.
Voiceofnaija.ng reports that Khan was arrested outside a High Court in Islamabad, the country’s capital.
The three-member bench of the court declared Khan’s arrest illegal, providing a major relief for the chairman of the Tehreek-e-Insaf party.
Pakistan’s government said he was taken into custody for not cooperating with authorities in an ongoing corruption investigation.
Since his arrest, tens of thousands of his supporters have taken to the streets in key cities across Pakistan to protest, hundreds of protesters stormed the headquarters of the national broadcaster Radio Pakistan, setting the building on fire.
Authorities have arrested at least three senior leaders of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party as of Thursday, including a former foreign minister in his cabinet during his premiership between 2018 and 2022.
A total of nearly 2,500 people have been arrested so far and at least 11 killed and dozens injured after Khan’s supporters clashed with police in several cities.
PTI supporters have attacked military establishments and set other state buildings and assets ablaze.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party activists and supporters (unseen) of former Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan clash with police during a protest against the arrest of their leader, in Islamabad.
The government blocked mobile internet services in a bid to quell the chaos, disrupting access to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Popular apps and digital payment systems were also disrupted.
The action against Khan, 70, a cricket hero-turned-politician and Pakistan’s most popular leader according to polls, has aggravated instability in the nuclear-armed country of 220 million people that is grappling with a severe economic crisis.
Khan, currently on an eight-day NAB remand, was also indicted on Wednesday in another corruption case in which he is accused of illegally selling state gifts during his tenure as the prime minister.
More than 100 Police cases have been registered against Khan by the government since his removal from power in April 2022 after he lost a confidence vote in parliament.
Meanwhile, rights groups have urged Pakistan to show restraint in dealing with the protests and restore internet.
“The Pakistani government should uphold the right to peaceful protest while responding to violence with the minimum force needed,” Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on Thursday.
Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi, who is also a senior PTI leader, said he was “alarmed, shocked and deeply disturbed” over the situation in the country.
“Protest is a constitutional right of every citizen of Pakistan but should always remain within the bounds of the law.
“The way some miscreants have damaged public property, particularly government and military buildings, is condemnable,” the President said in a statement on Thursday.