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Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan granted bail after dramatic arrest

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

A court in Pakistan has ordered the release of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. His arrest by paramilitary forces earlier this week triggered protests across Pakistan. So where does the country go from here? On the line with us is NPR's international correspondent Diaa Hadid, who is in Islamabad. And she's been following the crisis. Good morning.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So, Diaa, you were at the court today. What happened?

HADID: Well, there was a fair amount of chaos. Security forces, riot police, paramilitary forces, Frontier Constabulary, even highway police had sealed off the high court, and lawyers were shuffled from one room to another for hours. Finally, a judge began proceedings, but then a man began chanting in support of the former prime minister, Imran Khan, and that halted the hearing. Khan got up, asked people to be quiet, accused the man who was chanting of being sent there by rivals to cause chaos and that - well, it triggered chaos. A fight occurred between the prosecutor and Khan's lawyers. Have a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE ARGUING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: You shut your mouth.

FADEL: Wow. So people telling each other to shut up, a fight in the courtroom.

HADID: Well, yeah, it died down, and the judge eventually resumed the hearing. And he gave Khan two weeks bail in a corruption case. That was the case he was ostensibly arrested for on Tuesday. He was released, and his supporters are celebrating this as a victory.

FADEL: What did Khan say? Did he have anything to say?

HADID: Yeah, he told reporters in the courtroom that he believes Pakistan's army chief is to blame for his troubles and says he is effectively ruling the country. Now, Pakistan's army is the most powerful institution in the country, and Khan has accused them of orchestrating his ouster last year anyway. Have a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

IMRAN KHAN: I think it's being run by one man, the army chief.

HADID: Khan says he believes security forces will arrest him eventually and believes that some people in the army are still trying to kill him. Those are serious allegations, and the army hasn't responded yet to them. But bear in mind, it was claims like this that got him into trouble in the first place. The army has accused Khan of making inflammatory statements and even seeking to push the country towards civil war.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KHAN: The only thin line between a banana republic and democracy is that judiciary. That's the only hope we have now.

FADEL: So he's released on bail, but based on what we just heard, tensions are continuing. Give us the big picture here. What's at stake?

HADID: Right. And this has been going on for over a year now, ever since the army signaled that it no longer supported the government of Imran Khan. He was ousted from power. Ever since, his supporters have been trying to force elections. The country has lurched from one crisis to another. The government refuses to hold elections. The economy is unraveling. Inflation is soaring. People can't afford to buy food, and millions are going hungry. That's the context. That's the backdrop of these troubles that are happening today.

FADEL: NPR's Diaa Hadid in Islamabad, thank you so much.

HADID: Thank you, Leila.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Diaa Hadid chiefly covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Islamabad. There, Hadid and her team were awarded a Murrow in 2019 for hard news for their story on why abortion rates in Pakistan are among the highest in the world.