Pak ex-pm Imran Khan returns to court after skipping hearings

Pak ex-pm Imran Khan returns to court after skipping hearings

A Pakistani judge has dropped an arrest warrant against former prime minister Imran Khan on Saturday, his lawyers said after the ex-cricket star skipped several hearings, he travelled to court.

The 70-year-old has been involved in a lot of court cases since he was ousted in a no-confidence motion last year and has been pushing for early elections for the fragile coalition government that replaced him.

Khan's supporters fought pitched battles with police sent to arrest him in the eastern city of Lahore earlier this week after he failed to appear in court over graft charges, citing security concerns.

The arrest warrant was cancelled after Imran Khan was cited as an absentee by the court. The hearing has been adjourned until March 30, according to one of Khan's lawyers, Gohar Khan, told AFP.

Khan, who was in office from 2018 to 2022, is facing a number of legal challenges, including one that caused a failed attempt to arrest him on Tuesday.

He was to address charges in court on Saturday of unlawfully selling state gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries while he was in office.

Khan said he followed legal procedures when acquiring the gifts.

On Saturday afternoon, a 70-year-old reached the capital and was on his way to the court in a motorcade surrounded by supporters.

Khan travelled more than 300 km from Lahore to the Islamabad court complex after days of legal wrangling, but was unable to get out of the car.

Around 4,000 supporters mobbed the complex, pelting stones and throwing bricks at police officers who fired back with tear gas.

The court accepted Khan's attendance, according to his lawyers.

Islamabad police chief told local broadcaster Geo News that Khan's supporters had attacked police near the court and fired tear gas shells, prompting police to fire more tear gas back.

Khan has led nationwide protests since his ouster from power last year and has had a number of cases registered against him.

The police chief for Punjab province, Usman Anwar, told a media conference in Lahore that officers went to Khan's house on Saturday to intercept people who had been involved in earlier clashes with police and had arrested 61 people, including for throwing petrol bombs.

Earlier this week, police and supporters of Khan clashed outside his home during the arrest attempt.

The former cricket star told Reuters he has formed a committee to lead his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf PTI if he is arrested.

Khan, who was shot and wounded while campaigning in November, said in the interview that the threat to his life is greater than before and that his political opponents and military want to block him from standing in elections later this year.

The military and government did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

The government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has denied being behind the cases against Khan. The military, which has an outsized role in Pakistan, has ruled the country for nearly half of its 75-year history, and has said it remains neutral towards politics.