Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is currently holed up in his Lahore residence, defying attempts to arrest him. Supporters of Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party clashed repeatedly with police overnight, firing tear gas and dodging rocks thrown by angry crowds. This is the second time in recent weeks that police have attempted to arrest Khan at his home in Lahore after he skipped several court dates linked to a corruption case citing security concerns.
The Corruption Case against Khan
Khan has been summoned to court to answer accusations that he did not declare gifts received during his time as Prime Minister, or the profit made from selling them. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief has been in the crosshairs for buying gifts, including an expensive Graff wristwatch he had received as the premier at a discounted price from the state depository called Toshakhana and selling them for profit.
Toshakhana is a department under the administrative jurisdiction of the Cabinet Division that preserves presents and other expensive objects received by public authorities. When Khan came to power in 2018, he refused to reveal details of the numerous gifts he received throughout his tenure, claiming that doing so would jeopardise relations with other countries.
The former premier has avoided appearances before the court since November, claiming he was not medically fit to travel from Lahore to Islamabad to face indictment after being wounded in a gun attack at a protest rally in the eastern Punjab province.
Last week, he went to Islamabad to appear before three courts, but he failed to appear before the fourth court to face indictment in the graft case. Khan has repeatedly claimed that the string of cases against him, which includes terrorism charges, are a plot by the government of his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, to discredit the former cricket star turned Islamist politician.
Khan has also claimed that "they" (an indirect reference to the establishment) wanted to kill him while on the way to his court appearance. He has made references to the slaying of a Pakistan anti-terrorism court judge, his wife and two children. The family was killed after unidentified gunmen opened fire at his vehicle in Swabi district of Islamabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Attempted Arrest and Clash with Police
Officers were met by hundreds of Khan supporters, some wielding sticks and hurling stones, draped in the red-and-green PTI flags. Police fired a water cannon and tear gas on the crowds as they attempted to clear a path to Khan's house, holding signs plastered with the arrest warrant for the 70-year-old opposition leader.
PTI deputy leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi insisted police should deliver the arrest warrant to him and said he would "try to find a solution to avoid bloodshed". However, supporters of Khan's party continued to clash with police throughout the night, firing tear gas and dodging rocks thrown by angry crowds. In a video issued shortly before dawn, Khan sat in front of Pakistan and PTI flags at a desk decorated with spent teargas canisters, telling the nation that police had "no justification" to attack his supporters.
Campaigning for Early Elections and a Return to Office
Khan was ousted from office by a no-confidence vote last year and has been snarled in a series of legal cases as he campaigns for early elections and a return to office. However, his attempts to return to power have been hampered by the corruption allegations against him, as well as the assassination fears that he claims have prevented him from appearing in court. It remains to be seen what will happen next in this ongoing saga, with supporters of Khan's party continuing to clash with police outside his Lahore residence.
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