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Delaying Arrest of Ex-PM Khan Aims to Quiet Unrest in Pakistan

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A Pakistani court on Wednesday ordered police to suspend an operation to arrest former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The decision halted pitched battles in which police clubbed supporters of the former cricketer and fired water cannons and tear gas.

Security forces withdrew from the vicinity of his home in the eastern city of Lahore to facilitate political matters

Instability in the nuclear-armed country, which is struggling with an economic crisis and awaits a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

Amir Mir, the provincial information minister, told Reuters that the Lahore High Court had ordered police to delay efforts to arrest Khan until Thursday.

Earlier, a senior police official said security forces withdrew to accommodate the Pakistan Premier Cricket League, the country’s most important sporting event, which is being played at a stadium a few kilometers away.

Khan’s arrest came after a lower court in the capital Islamabad issued a warrant against him for defying orders to appear in court on charges that he illegally sold government gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries when he was prime minister from 2018 to 2022.

In a tweet, Khan said he had signed a “guarantee bond” guaranteeing he would appear in court by March 18. His top aide, Fawad Chowdhury, said Khan’s party, Tehreek-e-Insaf, had asked the court to stop the police action.

According to a list published last year by Information Minister Marium Aurangzeb, gifts given to Khan include seven watches, including one worth 85 million rupees (about $300,000).

The list, which Reuters could not independently verify, included perfumes, diamond jewelry and dinner sets.

Khan has denied any wrongdoing.

Legal proceedings against Khan began after he was removed from office in a parliamentary vote early last year. Since then, he has held protest rallies across the country to demand snap elections, during which he was shot.

Incumbent Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif rejected Khan’s demands, saying the elections would be held as scheduled later this year.

Political infighting is common in Pakistan, where no prime minister has yet met a full term and where the military has ruled for nearly half of the country’s history.

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