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    HomeWorldPakistani court declares Imran Khan arrest unlawful, party leaders say

    Pakistani court declares Imran Khan arrest unlawful, party leaders say

    ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Supporters of Pakistan’s opposition leader and former prime minister Imran Khan celebrated on Thursday after reports that the Supreme Court had ruled his arrest to have been unlawful and that he should be released.

    Khan’s lawyer Babar Awan said the former prime minister “is now directly in the custody of the Supreme Court of Pakistan — not in police custody” as he awaits another court hearing set to take place on Friday.

    “His friends and lawyers will have access to him,” Awan, added. The Supreme Court did not immediately release a written order. Khan’s party had earlier filed a motion with the Supreme Court, arguing that the circumstances of his arrest were unconstitutional. In ordering Khan’s release, the judges appeared to agree with that assessment on Thursday.

    Khan’s arrest by paramilitary forces on high court premises on Tuesday had prompted days of violent clashes in Pakistan. Footage showed the former prime minister being shoved into a law enforcement vehicle, just after he had arrived for a hearing in unrelated cases that are now expected to resume Friday.

    Khan’s supporters argued that the charges against him are fabricated.

    Pakistan calls in military as protests mount over Imran Khan arrest

    “The entire nation is happy about the news of Imran Khan being released,” Hammad Azhar, a senior Khan party leader, wrote on Twitter, calling on supporters to celebrate in the streets.

    Footage showed crowds of Khan supporters celebrating in Islamabad and other cities on Thursday evening.

    Tensions threatened to spiral out of control after Pakistan called in the military on Wednesday, deploying it in the capital city of Islamabad and several provinces to quell the violent clashes that left dozens injured, several dead, and targeted military and government buildings. Hundreds were arrested, including several key members of Khan’s party.

    In a televised address, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif compared violent protesters to “terrorists” on Wednesday, saying they had committed “unforgivable crimes.”

    The violence constitutes some of the worst political tensions since 2007, when former premier Benazir Bhutto was assassinated while campaigning.

    The scale of the current protests also shows how popular Khan remains among many voters, even one year after parliament ousted him as prime minister. Pakistan is expected to hold general elections later this year.

    As prime minister, Khan was widely seen as having the support of the military, but tensions mounted after his ouster by parliament. Khan accused the prime minister, interior minister and an intelligence officer of having been behind an assassination attempt that he narrowly survived last November.

    Pakistan’s powerful generals are widely perceived to be playing a key role in Pakistani politics behind the scenes and there have been a number of military takeovers in Pakistan’s history. But in recent years, the military had preferred portraying itself more as a mediating force.

    With the military appearing to take sides in the current conflict, some worried that the situation could easily spiral out of control.

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