Supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan clash with police as they gather outside Khan's residence to resist his arrest in Lahore, Pakistan, 15 March 2023. EFE/EPA/RAHAT DAR

Police halt arrest of former PM Khan amid clashes with supporters

Islamabad, Mar 15 (EFE).- Pakistani police said Wednesday that they have suspended an operation to arrest former prime minister Imran Khan after two days of clashes with his supporters at his home in the eastern city of Lahore.

Khan is wanted by police on charges relating to undeclared state gifts he received during his term in office.

A handout photo made available by the opposition party Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) shows its chairman Imran Khan (C-R) at his residence in Lahore, Pakistan, 15 March 2023. EFE/EPA/PTI HANDOUT

Caretaker Punjabi information minister Amir Mir told Efe that police officers had been “temporarily removed” from Khan’s residence because “the number of protesters is higher and the officers do not have weapons,” adding that officers were being pelted by Khan’s supporters with “stones sticks and slingshots,”

“Our pulling back the police is part of the strategy but the efforts to arrest him will continue from time to time,” Mir added, pointing out that 67 officers had been injured and dozens of vehicles had been damaged during the clashes with the protesters.

Despite the withdrawal of police, the Islamabad High Court on Wednesday confirmed that the arrest warrant against Khan remained in force.

Meanwhile, Khan’s opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has claimed that hundreds of supporters were injured during the siege over the past two days, with the former leader accusing authorities on Twitter of wanting to kidnap and assassinate him.

A police contingent from Islamabad tried to arrest Khan on Tuesday, following another failed attempt on March 5, but PTI leaders summoned party supporters to the area to block officers from accessing Khan’s residence, leading to clashes in which police fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse the protesters.

A supporter of former prime minister Imran Khan gestures during clashes with police outside Khan’s residence to resist his arrest in Lahore, Pakistan, 15 March 2023. EFE/EPA/RAHAT DAR

Following the withdrawal of the security forces, PTI shared images on Twitter of the former PM outside his residence, smiling with some of his supporters, many of whom were wearing gas masks, goggles and bandanas.

The opposition leader is accused of keeping gifts received during his term of office without handing them over to a government warehouse where gifts from foreign officials are kept and which, in case they want to keep them, they must pay 50% of their appraised value beforehand.

Khan has also been implicated in other cases and has not responded to several summonses in recent months, citing health problems relating to gunshot wounds he sustained to both legs in an assassination attempt in November.

Khan was removed from office in April last year following a no-confidence vote in parliament, which the former cricket star said was an US-backed attempt to oust him from power, although he later claimed it was former Pakistan Army chief Qamar Bajwa who had conspired with the opposition to remove him. EFE