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Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Feb. 21, 2024

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Pakistani police storm home of former prime minister

61 arrested in clashes with supporters at residence; Imran Khan not present at scene

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Police detain supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan during a search operation in Khan's residence Saturday in Lahore, Pakistan. (K.M.
Police detain supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan during a search operation in Khan's residence Saturday in Lahore, Pakistan. (K.M. chaudary/Associated Press) Photo Gallery

LAHORE, Islamabad — Pakistani police stormed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s residence 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 Officer Suhail Sukhera, who led the operation in an upscale Lahore neighborhood, said police removed a barricade erected by members of Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party and his defiant supporters. He said they blocked the lanes around Khan’s residence with concrete blocks, felled trees, tents and a parked truck.

Khan was not in the home, having traveled to Islamabad to appear before a judge to face charges that he sold state gifts while in office and hid his assets. The judge postponed that hearing until March 30.

Sukhera said baton-wielding Khan supporters attempted to resist police by throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, and a man on the roof of Khan’s residence opened fire. At least three police officers were injured.

Sukhera said police broke open the main door of Khan’s residence and found automatic weapons, Molotov cocktails, iron rods and batons used in attacks on police during the week. Sukhera said that inside the sprawling residence, illegal structures had been erected to shelter people involved in attacks on police that have injured dozens of officers.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said later that police would do a complete search of Khan’s home, where they found bunkers and suspected that more illegal weapons and ammunition were hidden. He said that in Islamabad, Khan and many of his supporters were armed.

Witnesses in Lahore said police attempted to disperse Khan’s supporters by firing tear gas and chased them to several homes in the Zaman Park neighborhood. Khan’s lawyer appeared in an Islamabad court on Saturday after a top court Friday suspended Khan’s arrest warrant, giving him a reprieve to travel to Islamabad and face charges in the graft case without being detained.

Khan had been holed up at his home in Lahore since Tuesday after failing to appear at an earlier hearing in the case. His supporters hurled rocks and clashed with baton-wielding police for two days to protect the former premier from arrest.

Khan’s motorcade arrived Saturday near the federal judicial complex in Islamabad, where his supporters also clashed with police who prevented them from entering the complex. The enraged Khan supporters threw rocks at police, who responded with tear gas.

Khan’s attorney, Babar Awan, filed an application for Khan’s exemption from appearance in court amid special circumstances.

Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar condemned Khan for not turning himself over to police and not appearing in court Saturday despite arriving at the judicial complex gate. He accused Khan of using his protesting supporters to avoid indictment.

Khan’s supporters set two police vehicles and several motorcycles outside the judicial complex on fire while dispersing, according to the law minister.

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