Pakistan's ex-PM Khan to appear in court, defusing political stand-off

By Mubasher Bukhari and Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) -Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan will show up in court on Saturday, his lawyer said, defusing a volatile stand-off between his supporters and security forces who have tried to arrest him for evading the legal proceedings.

Khan's decision came after the high court in the capital Islamabad cancelled an arrest warrant it issued for the former cricket star after he repeatedly failed to attend hearings on charges that he unlawfully sold state gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries when he was prime minister.

Khan denies the charges.

Attempts by the security forces to arrest Khan triggered pitched battles with his supporters earlier this week, during which police used water cannons and tear gas at the petrol-bomb hurling crowds that surrounded Khan's Lahore home.

"Tomorrow, he will appear before the trial court in Islamabad," Khan's lawyer, Azhar Siddique, told Reuters after Khan left a Lahore high court that had granted him bail in several other cases against him.

The legal proceedings against Khan began after he was ousted from office in a parliamentary vote early last year.

Since then, the 70-year-old politican has been demanding a snap election and holding protests across the country. He was shot and wounded at one of those rallies.

Current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has rejected Khan's demands, saying an election would be held as scheduled later this year.

The political infighting comes as nuclear-armed Pakistan struggles with an economic crisis. It is awaiting a bailout package of $1.1 billion from the IMF.

The case before the Islamabad High Court accuses Khan of selling luxury watches and other items that were given to the state during his 2018-2022 term as prime minister. The Election Commission of Pakistan had found him guilty and barred him from holding public office for one parliamentary term.

Earlier this week, Khan told supporters that he had not attended the hearings because he feared for his safety.

(Reporting by Asif Shahzad, Mubasher Bukhari, Gibran Peshimam; writing by Miral Fahmy; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Robert Birsel, William Maclean and Cynthia Osterman)