- By Samuel Horti in London and Caroline Davies in Islamabad
- BBC news
A court in Islamabad has canceled a hearing on charges that former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan sold state gifts following clashes between his supporters and police.
Khan’s backers threw stones and fired tear gas near the courthouse, police said.
The former cricketer turned politician has since returned to his home in Lahore, where police raided and made arrests in his absence.
He denies the allegations against him.
The chaotic scenes prevented Mr Khan from entering the court before the judge agreed that he could mark his presence and return home.
The former prime minister says the charges against him are politically motivated, but says he is going to court “because I believe in the rule of law”. The government says the charges against him have nothing to do with politics.
He told Reuters he had formed a committee to lead his party, Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), in the event of his arrest.
About 4,000 security officers, including elite commandos and anti-terrorism teams, have been deployed to Islamabad, AFP reported.
Police blocked the highway to Islamabad with shipping containers and large trucks to stop Mr Khan’s convoy as it approached the city.
Officers armed with sticks and tear gas grenades let his vehicle through, but most of his supporters were rebuffed.
Speaking to the BBC when the convoy stalled, Khan said authorities were trying to put him in jail to keep him out of the general election race later this year. “I won’t be able to campaign – that’s the whole thing,” he said.
Earlier this week he told the BBC: “Whether I’m in prison or not, they won’t be able to prevent my side from winning.”
In a sign of the deep divisions within Pakistani politics, current Prime Minister Shebaz Sharif tweeted that Khan’s “antics over the past few days” had “exposed his fascist and militant tendencies” and accused him of using supporters as “human shields”. .
Earlier this week, Lahore police attempted to arrest Mr Khan after he missed a hearing and officers clashed with supporters outside his home. On Friday, the court granted Mr Khan protection from arrest on the condition that he appear in court on Saturday.
According to local media, Lahore police used an excavator on Saturday to access Mr Khan’s residence in an operation involving nearly 1,000 security personnel. Police later said they had arrested supporters of Khan who had been involved in violence against police earlier this week, including for throwing petrol bombs.
The Punjab police chief said some officers will remain outside Mr Khan’s residence.
Khan was ousted as prime minister last April by a no-confidence vote, but he continued to put pressure on his successor Sharif with demonstrations and speeches calling for early elections later this year.
He blames Sharif for an assassination attempt at a meeting in November that injured his leg. Authorities have rejected the accusation.
Mr Khan faces multiple lawsuits, including terrorism charges. He has cited several reasons – including safety concerns and injuries from the November assassination attempt – for not showing up at hearings.