International

Pakistan: Police At Imran Khan's House Fire Shells At Supporters, Helicopter And Paramilitary Deployed In Operation To Arrest Khan

The Lahore neighbourhood around Imran Khan's house resembled a battlezone as shells landed inside Khan's house and a helicopter flew overhead and paramilitary personnel arrived in armoured vehicles in the area amid continuing clashes. 

A riot police officer fires tear gas to disperse supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan during clashes outside Khan's residence, in Lahore, Pakistan, Tuesday, March 14, 2023.
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A large police contingent arrived at former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's house in Lahore on Tuesday to arrest him. The development is related to the Toshakhana case. 

As Khan's supporters clashed with police personnel, they lobbed tear gas shells at them and used water cannon to disperse them. Visuals of water cannon surfaced surfaced in Pakistani media and Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party also shared visuals of injured on Twitter. 

The "Toshakhana" is a department that is in charge of valuable gifts received by government officials. It's alleged that former PM and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party chief Khan did not disclose gifts presented to Toshakhana and that there were irregularities in sale of some of these gifts. 

As police arrived at Khan's Lahore residence, his supporters also gathered around the house. Visuals surfaced of his supporters armed with lathis challenging the police personnel in full riot gear. 

The Lahore neighbourhood around Khan's house resembled a battlezone as shells landed inside Khan's house and a helicopter flew overhead and personnel from paramilitary force Pakistan Rangers arrived in armoured vehicles in the area amid continuing clashes. 

Deputy Inspector General (DIG-Operations) Shahzad Bukhari, who is leading the operation to arrest Khan, was also injured in the clashes, according to The Dawn newspaper. It reported that footage from the area showed him barely walking.

The police blocked all roads leading to Khan's house by placing containers and riot personnel took positions to launch the operation. Khan currently has at least 81 cases against him. 

Earlier on Tuesday, an Islamabad court suspended till March 16 a non-bailable arrest warrant against Khan in a case for threatening a woman magistrate at a rally last year.

What has Imran Khan's PTI said?

Senior PTI leader Farukh Habib told reporters that come what may Imran Khan would not surrender to police in fake cases. 

"The arrest warrants in the case related to threatening a female judge were today suspended by the Islamabad High Court. Let's see what new warrants police have brought with them now," Habib said.

Reports also said that the paramilitary force Pakistan Rangers personnel have also arrived at the scene in armoured vehicles. 

In a tweet, Khan's party PTI claimed that his residence was being subjected to "shelling" in an apparent reference to tear gas shells being lobbed there.

A senior police officer of Islamabad police said that his team has come here to arrest Khan in the Toshakhana case.

One activist of Khan’s party was killed on Wednesday during a crackdown on his supporters who gathered outside his residence in Lahore, defying a government ban on rallies in the city. On social media, khan and his party have labelled the Shehbaz Sharif-led Pakistan government "fascist". The party has also shared visuals of party workers injured in police action.

On Monday, the Lahore police had booked Khan in a case related to the killing of the PTI worker Ali Bilal alias Zille Shah in a road accident. Earlier, the Lahore police had registered an FIR against Khan and 400 others for the murder of Shah. 

"The new FIR has been registered against Imran Khan, Fawad Chaudhry, Dr Yasmin Rashid and a number of other PTI men for abetment to murder, concealing facts and evidence related to the death of Zille Shah," a senior police officer told PTI.

This official said the police may arrest Khan and others nominated in the FIR after direction from the "top". The PTI had accused the police of murder of Shah after inflicting brutal torture on March 8.

Imran Khan's long tussle with state

The FIR over PTI's worker's death is the 81st FIR against Khan since the Sharif-led coalition came into power 11 months ago after toppling Khan's government through a no-confidence motion. 

Khan on Monday led a march of thousands of his supporters, a day after he called off his party's election rally following a ban on public gatherings in Punjab's provincial capital. The former cricketer-turned-politician's supporters threw rose petals at a convoy carrying him to Data Darbar shrine.

Khan 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.

Khan was ousted from power in April last year after losing a no-confidence vote, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China and Afghanistan.

Since his ouster, Khan has been clamouring for immediate elections to oust what he termed was an "imported government" led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Sharif has maintained that elections will be held later this year once the parliament completes its five-year tenure.

(With PTI inputs)

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