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Ex-Pakistani prime minister appears in court amid police, Khan supporters clashes

Ex-Pakistani prime minister appears in court amid police, Khan supporters clashes

- Islamabad court grants Imran Khan permission to mark attendance in a case involving his alleged failure to declare sales of foreign gifts in assets to Election Commission

By Islamuddin Sajid

ISLAMABAD (AA) – Heavy clashes erupted between local police and supporters of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan during his appearance in court in the capital Islamabad in a case involving his alleged failure to declare sales of foreign gifts in assets to the Election Commission.

Police fired tear gas shells when Khan's supporters arrived near the Judicial Complex, where he was scheduled to appear before Additional District and Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal in the case involving the purchases and sales of gifts he received from foreign dignitaries while he was prime minister.

Khan also remained stuck outside the Judicial Complex for more than an hour, and the judge later granted permission to mark his attendance in the car because the heavy shelling and clashes outside the courthouse made it difficult for the former prime minister to appear for his possible indictment in the case.

"I am waiting outside the (judicial complex's) door for 15 minutes and am fully attempting to enter but they have done tear gas shelling and erected checkpoints and it appears they don't want that I reach here," Khan said in an audio message released to the media.

Earlier, police encountered resistance in their attempt to stop the caravan of Khan’s supporters because the city administration had already imposed a ban on gatherings of five or more people, resulting in the clashes.

Police in riot gear fired tear gas shells at supporters who attempted to accompany Khan's vehicle to court.

"Islamabad Police is shelling the vehicle and caravan of Chairman Tehreek-e-Insaf Imran Khan unprovoked. The aim is to create chaos and prevent Imran Khan from appearing in court," his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) tweeted.

However, Islamabad police blamed PTI workers for pelting stones at them.

"Political activists started pelting stones at the police. Apart from stone pelting, shelling is also being done by the political workers," Islamabad police said in a brief statement posted on Twitter, adding that they also set fire to a police checkpoint.

The local administration had deployed 3,000 security personnel around and inside the Judicial Complex in the morning to prevent people from entering the courthouse.

PTI leader and former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said he was also stopped by police outside the court.

There have been some media reports of PTI workers being arrested, but no official information is available as shelling continued close to the courthouse until the filing of this report.

Earlier, local police also raided Khan's residence in the northeastern city of Lahore while he was on his way to Islamabad to appear in court.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah provided details of the raid to a local broadcaster Geo News, alleging that the police were fired upon from inside the residence.

He claimed that all "terrorists" present inside the Zaman Park house had been apprehended and that a cache of explosives, petrol bombs, and bomb-making materials had been recovered from the site.

The provincial police chief later provided details about the weapons allegedly recovered from Khan's home during a press conference.

"I have a report of 61 arrests so far, but it could be more," said Inspector General of Police Usman Anwar at a press conference in Lahore.

Those arrested are not innocent people, but miscreants who will be charged under terrorism laws and brought before a court, he added.

It was illegal and against local court orders, according to PTI leader and former minister Hammad Azhar, who also accused the police of bringing weapons and ammunition into Khan's home in order to make "false" cases against detained people.

"There is a lot of social media content available to prove the police action," he said during a press conference.

Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court canceled the arrest warrant of Khan and adjourned the hearing until March 30.

On Tuesday, heavy police contingents, backed by paramilitary Rangers, surrounded Khan's residence after the Islamabad district court reinstated his arrest warrant for repeatedly avoiding hearings in the case.

Around 100 police officers were injured during Tuesday's clashes between Khan's supporters and police, while PTI party claimed that dozens of its workers were injured and arrested during the operation.

Later, the Lahore High Court barred police to continue operations and on Friday Islamabad High Court also suspended the district court order to arrest the former prime minister and ordered him to appear on Saturday before the district court in Islamabad.

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 cases ranging from terrorism to attempted murder and money laundering.

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