Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan will appear in a local court on Saturday in a corruption case against him, amidst a stand-off between his supporters and security forces who have tried to arrest him for skipping multiple previous hearings.
Khan, the 70-year-old chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, is scheduled to appear before the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Zafar Iqbal to attend proceedings on the complaint filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for allegedly concealing details of gifts in his assets declarations.
Accompanied by a convoy of his party workers, the PTI chief has departed from his residence in Zaman Park, Lahore, and is en route to Islamabad, the Dawn newspaper reported. Khan said he was aware that the government would arrest him as he headed to the Islamabad court to attend the Toshakhana case hearing amid protracted efforts from law enforcers to apprehend him for missing previous hearings.
I am going to court despite knowing they'll arrest me because I believe in the rule of law, he said in a video message posted on Twitter. Stringent security measures have been implemented outside the judicial complex in Islamabad's G-11, where Khan is expected to arrive by noon.
A large contingent of police has been deployed to the area to provide security for Khan, who survived an assassination attempt in November last year. Meanwhile, reports from Lahore said that police have taken control of Khan's residence at Zaman Park after evicting hundreds of PTI supporters.
In the last hearing on Thursday, the court rejected Imran's plea seeking the suspension of non-bailable arrest warrants issued for him. However, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday suspended non-bailable arrest warrants issued for Imran, providing him with a chance to appear before the trial court on Saturday.
During Friday's hearing, Imran's lawyer Khawaja Haris submitted an undertaking by his client, assuring it that the PTI chief would appear in court on March 18. Khan has been in the crosshairs for buying gifts, including an expensive Graff wristwatch he had received as the premier at a discounted price from the state depository called Toshakhana and selling them for profit.
Established in 1974, the Toshakhana is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division and stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats, and officials by heads of other governments and states and foreign dignitaries.
Khan was disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in October last year for not sharing details of the sales. The election body later filed a complaint with the district court to punish him, under criminal laws, for selling the gifts he had received as prime minister of the country. Khan has skipped several hearings in the case.
The PTI chief has been resisting arrest in the Toshakhana case, holed up inside his Zaman Park residence in Lahore, surrounded by hundreds of his supporters, who have fought pitched battles with the police and Rangers over the past few days, resulting in injuries to more than 60 people, mostly policemen.
The clashes ultimately subsided after the courts intervened on Wednesday, a day after which Khan's supporters placed shipping containers outside the main entrance of his residence and equipped themselves with clubs and slings to protect the former premier from any further police action.
As police laid siege to his Lahore residence, Khan had once again rushed to the IHC with a petition against the arrest orders. The IHC refused to intervene and asked the lawyer to go to the district court and give a commitment that Khan would appear on March 18 when the court had scheduled a hearing of the case.
Khan appeared before Lahore High Court on Friday and assured that he was ready to present himself on Saturday before the judge handling a corruption case against him. PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry told media persons on Friday, adding, "an undertaking has also been given to the court.
Meanwhile, Punjab police personnel removed barricades from the entrance of Imran's Zaman Park residence and entered the premises. The police were reportedly met with resistance from PTI workers camped inside and responded with a baton charge. Some activists were reportedly taken into custody.
It was also reported that the police broke into the PTI chief's house by smashing the door. The personnel also uprooted camps erected inside the premises. Khan decried the police operation that was underway at his Zaman Park residence in Lahore.
Meanwhile Punjab police have led an assault on my house in Zaman Park where Bushra Begum is alone, he said in a tweet. Under what law are they doing this? This is part of the London Plan where commitments were made to bring absconder Nawaz Sharif to power as quid pro quo for agreeing to one appointment.
The PTI chief maintained that an "agreement" was signed in London which outlined that "Imran has to be put in jail to destroy his party and finish all cases against Nawaz Sharif". Imran maintained that his arrest had "nothing to do with the law" but was in fact part of the 'London' conspiracy.