Pakistani police and former prime minister Khan’s supporters clash near his home

LAHORE, Pakistan — Pakistani police clashed with supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan on Tuesday when officers arrived at his home to arrest him for failing to appear in court on graft charges, police and officials said.

Police in the eastern city of Lahore planned to serve Khan with a warrant to appear in court this week. Tear gas was fired at the house, while supporters of the 71-year-old opposition leader threw stones and bricks at the officers.

About a dozen policemen and about 35 of Khan’s supporters were injured. Tear gas shells and pieces of brick littered the pavement as Khan’s followers fought back with batons taken from the officers.

Khan, who was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament last April, was ordered to appear before a judge in Islamabad on Friday to answer charges of illegally selling government gifts he received during his tenure as prime minister and concealing his assets.

The former prime minister has avoided court appearances since November, when he was wounded in a gun attack on a protest rally in the eastern province of Punjab, claiming he was medically unfit to travel from Lahore to Islamabad to face charges.

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He went to Islamabad last week to appear before three courts, but failed to appear before a fourth court to be charged in the graft case, a legal process to start a trial.

Khan claimed that the string of cases against him, including terrorism charges, was a conspiracy by the government of his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, to discredit the former cricket star turned Islamist politician.

Sharif told Pakistan’s Geo television on Tuesday that Khan’s arrest was court-ordered and not a political victim.

“We will arrest him and we will do so on the basis of a court order,” Shahzad Bukhari, Islamabad’s deputy inspector general of police, told reporters in Lahore earlier. Bukhari was also later slightly injured in the violence and received first aid from the police at the scene.

But Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a top leader of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, said the government was trying to disrupt law and order by sending police to Khan’s house.

“We are ready to find a middle ground in negotiations with the police, but we need to know what the purpose of today’s police raid is,” he said. “Don’t make it worse. Let’s sit down and discuss what you want,” Qureshi asked the police. He said Khan could consider offering to voluntarily arrest him, “but let’s talk first.”

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Fawad Chaudhry, another senior party leader, said Khan’s legal team was in the process of applying to the Islamabad High Court to stay the order against Khan. Khan’s lawyers also challenged the warrant in another court in Islamabad later on Tuesday.

Back home, Khan urged his followers to fight even if he is arrested in a tweet. “They think this nation will go to sleep when Imran Khan goes to jail,” he said. “You have to prove them wrong.”

Police said reinforcements are on their way to Khan’s house to bring the situation under control.

TV footage showed tear gas bullets falling into Khan’s house.

“We are arresting this man based on a court order and he has absconded to avoid arrest,” said Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan, who is not related to the former prime minister. He said Khan would be produced before the court.

Earlier on Tuesday, Sharif’s government made cabinet-approved changes to clarify laws that bar officials from keeping valuable state gifts received during their tenure. The ban makes it clear that no official can keep a gift worth more than $300, including the country’s prime minister, chief representative and cabinet ministers.

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According to the ban, such gift must be deposited in a government storage facility, known in Urdu as Toshakhana, by each recipient within one month of receipt. From now on, gifts are considered state property, he added.

Impoverished Pakistan is in a deepening economic crisis and is trying to negotiate a much-needed bailout from the International Monetary Fund to avoid bankruptcy.

Until his ouster, Khan’s government blocked the release of all information about gifts officials received from visiting dignitaries. In the past, the officials who received the gift – regardless of its value – reimbursed the state coffers with a small symbolic amount and kept the gift.

In a major twist, Sharif’s government on Monday released a list of gifts given to officials from past administrations, listing the value of each item and the smaller sums paid by the recipients since 2002.


Ahmed reported from Islamabad.