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Pakistani police besiege Imran Khan’s home as deadline for handing suspects over to him expires

Pakistani police besiege Imran Khan’s home as deadline for handing suspects over to him expires


KM Chaudhary/AP

Police officers patrol around the residence of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, in Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday, May 18, 2023.

Pakistani police maintained their siege around Imran Khan’s house as the 24-hour deadline given to the former prime minister to hand over suspects who allegedly took refuge inside expired on Thursday.

The siege and authorities’ demand for the suspects, wanted during violent protests over Khan’s recent detention, has angered the former prime minister’s many supporters and raised fears of further clashes between them and security forces.

Last week Khan’s supporters attacked public property and military installations after he was dragged from a courtroom and arrested in a corruption case. At least 10 people were killed in clashes with police across the country in the days that followed. The violence only subsided when Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered Khan’s release.

The popular opposition leader was released over the weekend and returned home to an upscale neighborhood in Lahore, Pakistan’s second city and capital of the Punjab region. Dozens of his followers are staying there with him, along with private guards. Police surrounded the residence on Wednesday, saying they wanted 40 suspects released.

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Khan’s ultimatum ended at 2 p.m. local time, but there were no immediate signs of any unusual movement from the police. Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, has invited reporters to the house to witness any police raids.

Hours after the ultimatum expired, Hassan Javed, a senior police official, told reporters that officers were waiting for a signal from the government to launch the raid. He said police captured at least eight suspects after they left Khan’s house and tried to escape through a nearby canal.

Rahmat Gul/AP

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a press conference in Islamabad on April 23, 2022.

Typically, between 200 and 300 Khan’s supporters, holding staves, guard his residence around the clock, but most vanished overnight. Police barricaded a key road leading to the house and asked residents to use an alternate route.

Probably my last tweet before my next arrest, the 70-year-old popular opposition leader tweeted on Wednesday after the siege began. The police surrounded my house.

Later, Khan addressed his supporters saying that the police could only search his house with a search warrant and not break in, creating chaos.

According to Amir Mir, spokesman for the provincial government of Punjab, the police were ready to use firearms in the event of an attack. He told a news conference on Thursday that at least 3,400 suspects linked to the clashes had been arrested and more raids were planned.

Pakistani authorities have said they will prosecute civilians involved in the recent anti-government protests in military courts. Angered by recent attacks on military installations, two lawmakers and some senior politicians quit Khan’s party, saying they could not support the man who incited people to violence.

KM Chaudhary/AP

Pakistani security officials close a road in front of former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s residence in Lahore, Pakistan.

The plan to try civilians in a military court has drawn criticism from advocacy group Amnesty International and the Pakistan Human Rights Commission. Military trials in Pakistan are usually held behind closed doors, depriving civilians of some of their fundamental rights, including the right to hire a lawyer of their choice.

Khan was ousted by a vote of no confidence in parliament last year. He claimed the ousting was illegal and a Western plot.

He now faces more than 100 lawsuits, mostly for incitement to violence, threats against officials and defying a ban on gatherings. He was summoned by the National Accountability Bureau to answer questions Thursday about a corruption case he is facing with his wife.

KM Chaudhary/AP

Pakistani police maintained their siege around Khan’s house as the 24-hour deadline given to the former prime minister to hand over suspects allegedly sheltered inside was set to expire on Thursday.

But Khan told the agency he could not attend as he was busy fighting for protection from arrest in numerous cases against him. In his written response to the agency, he said its investigation against him was politically motivated.

He is expected to address a gathering of supporters on the outskirts of Lahore later today.




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