March 18, 2023 | 5:11 pm
Pakistani police stormed the home of former Prime Minister Imran Khan in the eastern city of Lahore.
Pakistani police stormed the residence of former Prime Minister Imran Khan in the eastern city of Lahore on Saturday, arresting 61 people amid tear gas and clashes between Khan supporters and police, officials said.
Senior police officer Suhail Sukhera, who led the operation in an upscale neighborhood in Lahore, said police acted to remove a barricade set up by members of Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party and his insurgent supporters.
He said they blocked the lanes around Khan’s residence with concrete blocks, felled trees, tents and a parked truck.
Khan was not at home after traveling to Islamabad to appear before a judge to face charges. He sold state gifts while in office and hid his belongings.
The judge postponed that hearing to March 30.
Sukhera said Khan supporters with batons tried to resist police by throwing stones and Molotov cocktails and that a man on the roof of Khan’s residence opened fire.
At least three police officers were injured.
Sukhera said police broke down the front door of Khan’s residence and found automatic weapons, Molotov cocktails, iron bars and clubs used in attacks on police during the week.
Sukhera said illegal structures had been erected in the sprawling residence to protect people involved in attacks on police that left dozens of officers injured.
Home Minister Rana Sanaullah later said police would conduct a full search of Khan’s house, where they found bunkers and suspected more illegal weapons and ammunition were hidden.
He said Khan and many of his supporters were armed in Islamabad.
Witnesses in Lahore said police tried to disperse Khan’s supporters by firing tear gas and chasing them to several houses in the Zaman Park neighborhood.
Khan’s lawyer appeared before a court in Islamabad on Saturday after a top court on Friday suspended Khan’s arrest warrant, granting him a reprieve to travel to Islamabad and face charges in the corruption case without being detained.
Khan had been confined to his home in Lahore since Tuesday after failing to appear at an earlier hearing in the case.
His supporters spent two days throwing stones and clashing with police for two days to protect the former prime minister from arrest.
Khan’s motorcade arrived near the federal judicial complex in Islamabad on Saturday, where his supporters also clashed with police who prevented them from entering the complex.
The enraged Khan supporters threw stones at the police, who responded by throwing tear gas grenades to disperse them.
Khan’s lawyer, Babar Awan, applied for Khan’s exemption from appearing in court under special circumstances.
Justice Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar sentenced Khan for not turning himself in to police and failing to appear in court on Saturday despite arriving at the gate of the judicial complex.
He accused Khan of using his protesting supporters to avoid charges.
Khan’s supporter set fire to two police cars and several motorcycles outside the court complex as he dispersed, the justice minister said.
Khan said in a video message during his road trip to Islamabad that police broke into his residence in Lahore while his wife was home alone.
He condemned the action and demanded that those responsible be punished.
Khan’s PTI party secretary, Asad Umar, noted in a letter to Pakistan’s chief justice that police waited for Khan to make his way to Islamabad to storm his residence in Lahore.
He said the “doors and walls have been razed to the ground” and more than 40 people in the house have been arrested.
Khan, now the opposition leader, was ousted last April in a vote of no confidence in parliament. He faces charges of selling state gifts while in office and concealing assets, charges he denies.
It is one of many cases facing the former cricketer-turned-Islamic politician since his ouster.
The 70-year-old Khan, who has called for early parliamentary elections, has claimed his removal from power was part of a conspiracy between his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and the United States.
Both Washington and Sharif’s government have denied the accusation.