Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, was ordered to be released from custody on Thursday by the Islamabad Supreme Court following two days of deadly and violent rioting across the country by his supporters, Breitbart reported.
In what Khan's attorney deemed to be a "kidnapping," the former leader had been arrested on Tuesday while at the Supreme Court on another matter by a mob of nearly 100 Pak Rangers, the paramilitary enforcement wing of the nation's autonomous anti-corruption National Accountability Bureau, which had issued a warrant for his arrest on multiple corruption charges.
That incident sparked massive protests and unrest nationwide by supporters of the still-popular Khan -- who was ousted from office in April 2022 in a "no confidence" vote from parliament -- and included attacks on government buildings, police officers, and military officers and soldiers, who responded to the uprising with mass arrests of protesters and Khan's political allies.
Sky News reported that former Prime Minister Khan was released by the NAB on Thursday, at least for the time being, following an order to do so by Islamabad Supreme Court Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, who determined that the arrest on Tuesday had been illegal and a violation of Khan's rights.
Khan, who has denied any wrongdoing, asserted that he was "kidnapped from Islamabad High Court" and "hit with sticks" by the arresting mob during an appearance following his release. Bandial asked Khan to issue a public appeal for calm to his angry supporters, but Khan replied that he had "no idea" what had been going on since he had been taken from the court two days prior.
The outlet noted that while Khan had been released by the NAB he was still being kept in police custody at a guest house, ostensibly for his own protection, and would be allowed to meet with family and friends, though it was possible that he could be placed back under arrest and jailed again shortly.
India's NDTV reported that Chief Justice Bandial -- who issued a one-hour ultimatum demanding Khan's release -- was particularly displeased with how the NAB had sent its paramilitary troops to violate the integrity of the high court and carry out an extrajudicial arrest, particularly given that Khan had essentially surrendered himself to the court to face justice on Tuesday in one of the several alleged corruption cases against him.
Bandial further threatened to hold the NAB in contempt of court and excoriated the organization for the paramilitary group's abuse of some of the court's employees during the unlawful arrest and for failing to first seek the court's permission to take Khan into custody.
Meanwhile, RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty reported that the unlawful arrest of former Prime Minister Khan on Tuesday had led to violent and deadly protests and attacks by his supporters in multiple regions of the country that was met by an equally brutal and violent crackdown by Pakistani authorities, including the police and military.
Khan, who has asserted that the various charges of corruption against him are baseless and politically motivated, has also accused the military of attempting to assassinate him and of being behind his ouster last year, in coordination with the U.S. government, which has denied any involvement.
The immensely popular former cricket player turned politician has been trying to garner sufficient support to reclaim power in the next election from his successor, current Pakistan Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who announced in a televised speech that he had deployed the military to address the "acts of terrorism" of Khan's supporters.
Coinciding with that was a nationwide warning issued by the military of "stern action" and a "strong response" to any further violence and protests.
Also occurring amid all of the unrest, according to Pakistan's Express Tribune, were the mass arrests of protesters and Khan's top allies in the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI, the political opposition party that he leads, including more than 1,800 PTI leaders and Khan supporters.
Many of those political leaders have been transferred to a central prison on 15-day detention orders while the bulk of the protesters are scattered among regional jails in temporary custody pending potential criminal charges in relation to the protests, riots, and violent attacks against government buildings, the police, and the homes of top military officers and military garrisons, according to Breitbart.