Police have stormed the home of former Prime Minister Imran Khan in Lahore, Pakistan, and arrested 61 people amid chaotic tear gas shelling after someone opened fire from the roof of the building, officials said.
Senior officer Suhail Sukhera said police moved on the property to remove ‘encroachments’ and ‘blockades’ erected by Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party and his supporters, claiming at least three police officers were injured in the process.
Mr Sukhera added that supporters tried to resist police by throwing stones and petrol bombs and said police entered Mr Khan’s residence after a man on the roof of the property started shooting.
It comes as Mr Khan was set to appear in court today in Islamabad, Pakistan, to address charges of unlawfully selling state gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries during his time in office.
Mr Sukhera said police found masks, petrol-filled bottles, iron rods and batons inside Mr Khan’s residence which were used in attacks on police last week.
Mr Sukhera added that supporters tried to resist police by throwing stones and petrol bombs and claimed to enter Mr Khan’s residence after a man on the roof of the property started shooting
Witnesses said police attempted to disperse Mr Khan’s supporters by firing tear gas and chased them to several homes in the nearby Zaman Park area.
Punjab’s police chief has said contingents will ‘remain outside’ Mr Khan’s home to ‘ensure law and order’.
Islamabad High Court yesterday suspended an arrest warrant issued against Mr Khan to ensure he could appear before the court to face alleged corruption charges.
But Mr Khan has hit back at the storming of his home, claiming the ‘siege of Lahore’ was intended to take him ‘away to prison’.
Mr Khan said on Twitter: ‘It is now clear that, despite my having gotten bail in all my cases, the (Pakistan Democratic Movement coalition) govt intends to arrest me.
‘Despite knowing their malafide intentions, I am proceeding to Islamabad & the court because I believe in rule of law.
‘It is also obvious now that the entire siege of Lahore was not about ensuring I appear before the court in a case but was intended to take me away to prison so that I am unable to lead our election campaign.’
Mr Khan also added in a video message that the Government had planned his arrest despite him travelling to the hearing.
He said police had broken into his residence in Lahore, Pakistan, while his wife was alone in the property.
His motorcade arrived near the federal judicial complex in Islamabad this morning, where his supporters also clashed with police who were preventing them from entering the complex.
The enraged Khan supporters hurled rocks at police and officers threw tear gas canisters to disperse them.
Local media reported Mr Khan was unable to enter the courtroom because of protests around the complex and he was allowed to ‘sign his presence’ from his armoured vehicle and return to Lahore, with the judge postponing his hearing until March 30.
But Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar condemned Mr Khan for not turning himself over to police and not appearing in court despite arriving at the judicial complex gate. He accused him of using his protesting supporters to avoid indictment.
He also claimed Mr Khan’s supporters set two police vehicles and several motorcycles on fire outside the court.
A policeman fires tear gas to disperse supporters of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan, outside a Islamabad’s High Court, Pakistan
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s information minister said this week the Government had nothing to do with the police action and the police were complying with court orders.
Mr Khan had been at his Lahore home since Tuesday, after failing to appear at an earlier hearing, citing ‘security’ concerns.
His supporters hurled stones and clashed with baton-wielding police for two days to protect him from arrest.
Mr Khan, 70, now in the opposition, was ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament last April.
He is accused of selling state gifts and concealing assets during his time in office between 2018 and 2022.
It is one in a string of cases that the former cricket star turned politician has been facing since he was ousted.
He has also claimed that his removal from power was part of a conspiracy by his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and the United States.
Both Washington and Mr Sharif’s Government have denied the allegations.
Police detain a supporter of former Prime Minister Imran Khan during a search operation of his residence in Lahore, Pakistan
Police detain a bloodied supporter of former Prime Minister Imran Khan during a search operation of his residence in Lahore, Pakistan
Police gather next to a damage car during clashes with supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan outside Islamabad’s High Court, Pakistan