Police besiege Pakistan's ex-premier's residence in attempt to arrest him
By Kiran Butt and Aamir Latif
LAHORE / KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) - Hundreds of charged supporters of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan clashed with police in the northeastern city of Lahore on Tuesday after the latter besieged Khan's residence to arrest him on a court order.
Hundreds of riot police, backed by water cannons and armored personnel carriers, were seen proceeding towards the former premier's heavily fortified residence in a high-end Lahore neighborhood as stick-wielding activists pelted them with stones.
The police, attired in riot gear and holding shields, used water cannons to ward off the stone-throwing activists from Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, who had taken control of the main entrance to their party leader's residence.
Several PTI workers, according to police sources, were taken into custody.
Visuals aired on multiple local broadcasters showed hundreds of Khan's supporters, including women, gathering outside his residence in a desperate attempt to prevent his arrest.
They formed a human shield to stop riot police from approaching Khan's house.
Footage aired on Geo News showed at least three policemen with bleeding noses and heads as their colleagues tried to stop the bleeding by putting pieces of clothing on the wounds.
Clashes between police and PTI workers continued until this report was published, with a police officer using a megaphone to repeatedly warn protesters of "strict" legal action, including arrests, if they interfered with police business.
Lahore Police Chief Bilal Kumyana told reporters that the police personnel tasked with arresting Khan are "unarmed and here to simply implement the court orders."
A joint team of capital Islamabad and Lahore police arrived at Khan's residence a day after a district court restored an arrest warrant on Monday after he failed to appear before the judge despite instructions from the Islamabad High Court in a case related to “illegal purchases and sale of gifts” given by foreign dignitaries when he was in power.
Originally, the warrant was issued in February, but the Islamabad High Court suspended it last week and ordered Khan to appear in court on March 13.
However, the cricketer-turned-politician instead preferred to lead an election rally in Lahore on Monday.
On Feb. 5, police failed to arrest him due to opposition from his supporters.
Khan, the country's only premier to be deposed by a no-confidence vote in the country's 75-year political history, is facing a slew of charges ranging from terrorism to attempted murder and money laundering.
Most of the cases, which Khan dubs a "sham," were lodged after his ouster.
Khan, 70, blames his unceremonious ouster on a US-backed conspiracy, the allegation that the incumbent coalition government in Islamabad and Washington have repeatedly refuted.