Police in Pakistan Storm Home of Imran Khan, 61 Arrested
On Saturday, Pakistani police stormed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s residence in the eastern city of Lahore, arresting 61 people amid tear gas and clashes between Khan’s supporters and police, according to the Associated Press.
Suhail Sukhera, a senior police officer who led the operation in an upscale Lahore neighbourhood, said police were called in to remove a barricade erected by members of Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party and defiant supporters. He claimed they used concrete blocks, felled trees, tents, and a parked truck to block the lanes around Khan’s house.
Khan was not at home because he had travelled to Islamabad to appear before a judge on charges of selling state gifts while in office and concealing his assets. The judge rescheduled the hearing for March 30.
According to Sukhera, baton-wielding Khan supporters attempted to resist police by throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, and a man on Khan’s roof opened fire. Three police officers have been injured.
According to Sukhera, police broke open the main door of Khan’s house and discovered automatic weapons, Molotov cocktails, iron rods, and batons used in attacks on police earlier in the week. Sukhera claimed that illegal structures had been erected inside the sprawling residence to house people involved in police attacks that had injured dozens of officers.
Later, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah stated that police would conduct a thorough search of Khan’s residence, where they discovered bunkers and suspected more illegal weapons and ammunition were hidden. He claimed Khan and many of his supporters were armed in Islamabad.
According to witnesses in Lahore, police used tear gas to disperse Khan’s supporters and chased them to several homes in the Zaman Park neighbourhood. Khan’s lawyer appeared in an Islamabad court on Saturday after a top court suspended Khan’s arrest warrant on Friday, allowing him to travel to Islamabad and face graft charges without being detained.
Khan had been hiding out at his Lahore home since Tuesday after failing to appear at a previous hearing in the case. For two days, his supporters threw rocks and clashed with baton-wielding police to keep the former premier from being arrested.
Khan’s motorcade arrived Saturday near Islamabad’s federal judicial complex, where his supporters clashed with police who barred them from entering. Enraged Khan supporters hurled rocks at police, who responded by hurling tear gas canisters at them.
Babar Awan, Khan’s attorney, filed an application for Khan’s exemption from court appearance due to special circumstances.
Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar chastised Khan for failing to surrender to police and failing to appear in court on Saturday despite arriving at the judicial complex gate. He accused Khan of using his protesters to avoid prosecution.
According to the law minister, Khan supporters set fire to two police vehicles and several motorcycles outside the judicial complex while dispersing.
During his road trip to Islamabad, Khan said in a video message that police had broken into his Lahore home while his wife was alone. He condemned the act and demanded that those responsible be held accountable.
In a letter to Pakistan’s chief justice, Khan’s PTI party secretary-general, Asad Umar, stated that police waited until Khan was on his way to Islamabad before storming his Lahore residence. He stated that the “doors and walls have been razed to the ground,” and that more than 40 people were arrested at the residence.
Khan, who is now the opposition leader, was deposed in Parliament last April in a no-confidence vote. He is accused of selling state gifts and concealing assets while in office, which he denies. It is one of several cases that the former cricketer turned Islamist politician has faced since his ouster.
The 70-year-old Khan, who has called for early elections in Parliament, has claimed that his demise was the result of a plot by his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and the US. The allegation has been denied by both Washington and Sharif’s government.