Pakistani police raid former Prime Minister Imran Khan's residence, arrest 61 supporters

Supporters of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan climb into a vehicle amid the tear gas during a clash outside the Federal Judicial Complex in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 18, 2023. Photo: Akhtar Soomro/REUTERS

Officials reported that Pakistani police invaded the residence of former Prime Minister Imran Khan in the eastern city of Lahore on Saturday and arrested 61 individuals amid tear gas and fights between Khan's followers and police.

Suhail Sukhera, a senior police officer who conducted the operation in an affluent Lahore area, stated that officers removed a roadblock established by Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf party and his obstinate supporters. According to him, they obstructed the roads surrounding Khan's home with concrete blocks, downed branches, tents, and a parked truck.

Khan was absent because he had moved to Islamabad to face charges of selling official goods while in power and concealing his holdings. The hearing has been postponed until March 30.

Sukhera reported that Khan supporters armed with batons attempted to defy police by throwing stones and Molotov cocktails and that a guy on the roof of Khan's home opened fire. At least three officers sustained injuries.

Sukhera reported that police forced through Khan's front door and discovered automatic firearms, Molotov cocktails, iron rods, and batons used in attacks on police throughout the week. Sukhera stated that within the vast residence, unlawful constructions had been created to house those responsible for attacks on police that resulted in the injuries of scores of officers.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah later stated that police would thoroughly investigate Khan's residence, where they discovered bunkers and suspected the presence of additional illegal weapons and ammunition. According to him, Khan and several of his supporters were armed in Islamabad.

According to witnesses in Lahore, police attempted to disperse Khan's supporters by shooting tear gas and chasing them to multiple homes in the neighbourhood of Zaman Park. Khan's attorney appeared in an Islamabad court on Saturday after a top court postponed Khan's arrest order, allowing him to go to Islamabad and face corruption charges without imprisonment.

Khan has been holed up in his Lahore home since Tuesday when he failed to appear at a previous hearing in the case. Over two days, his supporters threw rocks and clashed with baton-wielding police to prevent the former prime minister's arrest.

Khan's convoy arrived near the federal judicial complex in Islamabad on Saturday, where his supporters battled with police who blocked them from accessing the complex. Infuriated Khan fans tossed rocks at police, who retaliated by dispersing them with tear gas.

Khan's counsel, Babar Awan, submitted a motion for Khan to be excused from court attendance due to exceptional circumstances.

Azam Nazeer Tarar, the minister of justice, criticized Khan for not surrendering to police and failing to appear in court on Saturday, despite having arrived at the entrance to the courthouse. He accused Khan of evading indictment by utilizing his protesting supporters.

According to the law minister, a supporter of Khan, they torched two police vehicles, and many motorcycles fired while dispersing outside the courthouse.

During his journey to Islamabad, Khan stated in a video that police had broken into his Lahore home while his wife was alone. He denounced the behaviour and asked that the perpetrators be punished.

Asad Umar, the general secretary of Khan's PTI party, stated in a letter to Pakistan's chief justice that police waited until Khan was en route to Islamabad before storming his Lahore home. He said that "doors and walls had been demolished" and that more than 40 persons were arrested at the residence.

Khan, the current leader of the opposition, was deposed by a vote of no confidence in April of last year. He is accused of selling state goods while in government and hiding assets, which he rejects. After his dismissal, the former cricket star-turned-Islamist politician has faced many cases.

The 70-year-old Khan, who has called for early parliamentary elections, asserts that his ouster from power resulted from a conspiracy between his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and the United States. Both the United States and the government of Sharif have disputed the accusation.

Publish : 2023-03-19 10:45:00

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