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Court issues non-bailable arrest warrant for ex-Pakistani prime minister

Court issues non-bailable arrest warrant for ex-Pakistani prime minister

- Imran Khan facing a slew of cases since his ouster from power in April last year

By Aamir Latif

KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – A Pakistani court on Tuesday issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for the country's former Prime Minister Imran Khan in connection with the illegal purchase and sale of gifts given by foreign dignitaries while he was in office.

Khan, who is also head of the center-right PakistanTehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, was issued the warrant by an Islamabad High Court judge for persistently evading court appearances, according to a court record and local media.

Earlier, Khan set off from the northeastern city of Lahore to Islamabad with thousands of PTI stalwarts and activists to attend to attend three other court hearings in which he was granted bail, local broadcaster Geo News reported.

There was no immediate word from the government or the police on whether the cricketer-turned-politician would be arrested.

Visuals aired on multiple local broadcasters showed Khan's convoy, which included hundreds of vehicles and thousands of flags-waving party workers, entering the capital.

Another group of charged supporters dismantled barbed wire and barricades to gain access to Anti-Terrorism Court, while the police provided only tepid resistance.

Surrounded by chaotic scrums of supporters and reporters, Khan was seen disembarking from a bullet-proof vehicle.

Khan, the country's only premier who was ousted through a no-trust vote in Pakistan's 75-year checkered political history, is facing a slew of cases against him, ranging from terrorism to attempted murder and to money laundering.

Most of the cases, which Khan dubs as "sham," have been lodged after his ouster.

He was deposed as prime minister after parliament passed a no-confidence vote in April last year.

He blames his unceremonious ouster on a US-backed conspiracy, the allegation that the incumbent coalition government in Islamabad and Washington have repeatedly refuted.

He narrowly escaped assassination while leading an anti-government long march towards Islamabad last November. Since then, he has been residing in his residence in Lahore and has frequently skipped court hearings on health and security grounds.


- Elections imbroglio

Khan, the country's 19th prime minister, took office in August 2018 and ruled for just over three and a half years.

Since, his ouster, he has been calling for snap elections, which otherwise are slated to be held in October this year.

To press his demand for early general elections, Khan's PTI dissolved the two key provincial assemblies of northeastern Punjab and northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces in January this year, triggering a legal battle that also involved the country's apex court.

The country's Constitution requires that new elections be held within 90 days of the dissolution of any of the country's legislative assemblies, both central and provincial. The government, however, insists on holding national and provincial elections simultaneously.

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