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Police storm ex-premier’s house

Pakistan’s Khan answers court summons; hearing delayed by BABAR DOGAR The Associated Press | March 19, 2023 at 4:42 a.m.
Police detain a supporter of former Prime Minister Imran Khan during a search operation Saturday in the Khan’s residence, in Lahore, Pakistan. More photos at (AP/K.M. Chaudary)

LAHORE, Islamabad -- Pakistani police stormed former Prime Minister Imran Khan's residence Saturday in the eastern city of Lahore and arrested 61 people amid tear gas and clashes between Khan's supporters and police, officials said.

Senior police officer Suhail Sukhera, who led the operation in an upscale Lahore neighborhood, said police acted to remove 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 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 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 police would do a complete search of Khan's home, where they had found bunkers earlier and suspected more illegal weapons and ammunition were hidden. He said 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 had been holed up in Lahore since Tuesday after failing to appear at an earlier hearing in the case.

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 by lobbing tear gas canisters to disperse them.

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.

Khan, during his road trip to Islamabad, said in a video message police had broken into his residence in Lahore while his wife was alone at the home. He condemned the action and demanded that those responsible be punished.

PTI party secretary-general Asad Umar, in a letter to Pakistan's chief justice, noted that police waited until Khan was en route to Islamabad to storm his Lahore residence. He said more than 40 people at the home were arrested.

Khan, now the opposition leader, was ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament last April. He is accused of selling state gifts while in office and concealing assets, charges he denies.

Information for this article was contributed by Zarar Khan of The Associated Press.

  photo  Police use a crane to remove tents and other stuff from outside the residence of former Prime Minister Imran Khan during a search operation Saturday in the Khan’s resident, in Lahore, Pakistan. (AP/K.M. Chaudary)

 Gallery: Pakistani police, Khan supporters clash

Print Headline: Police storm ex-premier’s house


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