Clashes erupt in Pakistan after police try to arrest former Prime Minister Imran Khan

Supporters of former Prime Ministry Imran Khan's party scuffle with riot police officers outside Khan's residence, in Lahore, Pakistan, Tuesday, March 14, 2023. Pakistani police scuffled with supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan as officers arrived outside his home to arrest him for failing to appear in court on graft charges, police and officials said. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

(K.M. Chaudary / Associated Press)

Clashes erupt in Pakistan after police try to arrest former Prime Minister Imran Khan

March 15, 2023

Clashes between police and supporters of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan persisted outside his home in the eastern city of Lahore on Wednesday, a day after officers went to arrest him over his failure to appear in court on graft charges.

The police operation triggered clashes between Khan’s supporters and police in the country’s major cities, including Karachi, Islamabad, the garrison city of Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Quetta and elsewhere in Pakistan.

Police fired tear gas at Khan’s house as the 70-year-old opposition leader’s supporters hurled rocks and bricks at the officers. The upscale area of Zaman Park where Khan lives has been under siege since Tuesday. The government said it was sending additional police to deal with the situation.

Early Wednesday, Khan emerged from his house to meet with his supporters, who had faced tear gas and police batons through the night to save him from arrest. He said that he was ready to travel to Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, this weekend under his arrest warrant but that police did not accept the offer.

About a dozen police and some 35 of Khan’s supporters were reported injured. Tear gas shells and pieces of bricks littered the pavement as Khan’s followers fought back with batons they had brought to resist police, who prepared for a final attempt to arrest Khan.

Khan, who was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament last April, was ordered to appear before a judge in Islamabad on Friday to answer charges of illegally selling state gifts he had received during his term as premier and concealing his assets.

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Khan has avoided appearances before the court since November, when he was wounded in a gun attack at a protest rally in eastern Punjab province, claiming he was not medically fit to travel from Lahore to Islamabad to face indictment.

Last week, he went to Islamabad to appear before three courts, but he failed to appear before the fourth court to face indictment in the graft case, which is a legal proceeding for starting his trial.

Khan has claimed that the cases against him, which include terrorism charges, are a plot by the government of his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, to discredit him.

On Tuesday, Sharif told Pakistan’s Geo television that Khan’s arrest was ordered by a court and that it was not political persecution.

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We will arrest him, and will do it on a court order, Shahzad Bukhari, deputy-inspector general of Islamabad police, told reporters earlier in Lahore. Later, Bukhari was lightly injured in the violence and received first aid from police medics at the scene.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a top leader from Khans Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, said the government was trying to disrupt law and order by sending police to Khans house.

We are ready to find a middle way through talks with police, but we should know what the purpose of todays police raid is, he said. Don’t worsen the situation. Let us sit and discuss what you want.

He said Khan could consider giving himself up for arrest, but let us talk first.”

Fawad Chaudhry, another senior party leader, said Khans legal team was in the process of submitting a request to the Islamabad High Court to have warrants against Khan suspended.

From inside his home, Khan, a former cricket star-turned-Islamist politician, urged his followers to fight on even if he is arrested. They think this nation will fall asleep when Imran Khan is jailed, he wrote on Twitter. You need to prove them wrong.