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Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan released on bail

By Sophia Saifi, Azaz Syed and Rhea Mogul, CNN

Pakistan’s former prime minister, Imran Khan, has been granted bail by the Islamabad High Court, days after his dramatic arrest over corruption charges set off a deadly outpouring of anger against the country’s military.

Khan left the court on Friday under police protection to return to Lahore. Before leaving, he predicted he could be arrested again, despite a court order barring authorities from arresting him on any charges until Monday.

“I will again be illegally arrested, this time outside the High Court, I know I will be arrested. My simple message is, how I am I supposed to control what will happen afterwards?” Khan told reporters.

He said that his message to followers is to remain peaceful — adding that he won’t be responsible for the reaction of the protesters if he is arrested again.

“For 27 years I’ve been in politics… Show me one message which has been different to this…every time I have told my followers, stay within the constitution. When you do protest, be peaceful….We have never broken the law, even now when I tell them to protest, I say they should be peaceful protests. I have always said that,” Khan said.

Jubilant supporters gathered outside Khan’s house as he returned home to Lahore early Saturday. Video showed people cheering and throwing flower petals onto Khan’s car as it drove through the crowd, and supporters setting off fireworks.

The ex-leader was granted the two-week temporary release on bail on Friday, one day after Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled Khan’s arrest last week by Pakistan’s anti-graft agency, the National Accountability Bureau, was unlawful.

Khan’s party had filed a petition to challenge the illegal land acquisition charges against him.

Soon after his arrest, Khan accused the country’s powerful army chief: “There is only one man taking action against me and that is the army chief,” Khan told reporters in court on Friday, referring to army chief General Syed Asim Munir.

CNN has approached Pakistan’s military for comment.

Khan also said that arrest warrants had been issued for his wife. “I am 100% sure I will be arrested again. I was allowed by the NAB to talk to my wife, arrest warrants are issued against her too,” Khan told CNN outside the courtroom ahead of his hearing.

Gunshots could be heard outside near the court early Saturday. Police say they have made two arrests and are investigating what happened.

Khan was ousted in a parliamentary no-confidence vote last year and has since led a popular campaign against the current government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, accusing it of colluding with senior military leaders to remove him from office and keep him locked out of politics.

He has also made allegations the government worked with the United States in a conspiracy to remove him from office, claims both parties rejected.

The army has previously rejected Khan’s claims it had anything to do with past purported attempts on his life.

Unprecedented scenes emerged following Khan’s arrest of defiant crowds breaking into military properties and setting the homes of army personnel ablaze, directly challenging a usually untouchable force that has long sat at the apex of power in Pakistan.

The government has blocked mobile internet services in a bid to quell the chaos, disrupting access to social media like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube as well as key delivery apps and even digital payment platforms.

At least eight people have died and hundreds have been arrested nationwide, according to officials.

Police have also arrested several senior leaders of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party for “inciting arson and violent protests.”

The crisis comes as the nation of 220 million people grapples with an acute economic crisis, as soaring inflation leaves people unable to afford food and fuel, heightening fears about the country’s stability in what is an election year for Pakistan.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - Asia/Pacific

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