Pakistani police storm former Prime Minister Khan’s home, arrest 61
Pakistani police stormed the residence of former Prime Minister Imran Khan in the eastern city of Lahore on Saturday and arrested 61 people amid tear gas and clashes between Khan’s supporters and police, officials said.
Senior police officer Sohail Sakhira, who led the operation in an upscale neighborhood of Lahore, said police moved to remove a barricade erected by members of Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party and his United Supporters. He said they blocked the pathways around Khan’s home with concrete blocks, felled trees, tents and a parked truck.
Khan was not home, having traveled to Islamabad to appear before a judge to face accusations that he sold government gifts while in office and hid his assets. The judge postponed the hearing to March 30.
Sakhira said that Khan’s supporters wielding batons tried to resist the police by throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails and a man on Khan’s rooftop opened fire. At least three police officers were injured.
Al-Sakhira said police broke down the main door of Khan’s house and found automatic weapons, Molotov cocktails, iron bars and batons used in attacks on police during the week. Inside the sprawling residence, Skhera said, illegal buildings were erected to house people involved in attacks on the police that left dozens of officers injured.
Home Minister Rana Sanaullah later said that the police would conduct a full search of Khan’s house, as they had found caches and suspected more illegal weapons and ammunition were hidden. In Islamabad, he said, Khan and many of his supporters were armed.
Witnesses in Lahore said police tried to disperse Khan’s supporters by firing tear gas and chased them to several houses in the Zaman Park district. Khan’s lawyer appeared in an Islamabad court on Saturday after a high court on Friday halted Khan’s arrest warrant, granting him reprieve to travel to Islamabad and face charges in the corruption case without being arrested.
Khan was holed up in his house House in Lahore since Tuesday After failing to appear at a previous hearing in the case. His supporters hurled stones and battled police, who used batons, for two days to protect the former prime minister from arrest.
Khan’s convoy on Saturday arrived near the Federal Judicial Complex in Islamabad, where his supporters also clashed with police, who prevented them from entering the complex. Angry supporters of Khan hurled stones at the police, who responded by throwing tear gas to disperse them.
Khan’s lawyer, Babar Awan, filed a request to excuse Khan from standing trial amid special circumstances.
Law Minister Azam Nazir condemned Tarar Khan for not turning himself in to the police and not appearing in court on Saturday despite arriving at the gate of the Judicial Complex. Khan was accused of using his protesting supporters to avoid being charged.
One of Khan’s supporters set fire to two police cars and several motorcycles outside the judicial complex during the dispersal, according to the law minister.
During his road trip to Islamabad, Khan said in a video message that police raided his home in Lahore while his wife was home alone. He condemned the act and demanded that those responsible be punished.
Khan’s PTI general secretary, Asad Umar, indicated in a letter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan that the police waited until Khan was on his way to Islamabad to storm his residence in Lahore. “The doors and walls were flattened,” he added, and more than 40 people were arrested in the house.
Khan, Now the leader of the oppositionHe was ousted in a vote of no confidence in parliament last April. He is accused of selling state gifts while in office and concealing assets, charges he denies. It is one of a series of cases the former cricket star turned Islamist politician has faced since his death.
The 70-year-old Khan, who has called snap elections in Parliament, alleged his removal from power was part of a plot by his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and the United States. Both Washington and Sharif’s government denied the allegations.
Associated Press writer Zarar Khan in Islamabad contributed.