Imran Khan Supporters Battle Pakistan Police Out to Arrest Him
Supporters of Imran Khan clashed with Pakistani police outside his home as the security officials tried to arrest the former premier for the second time, prolonging a political crisis that’s overshadowing the nation’s economic turmoil.
(Bloomberg) -- Pakistani police clashed with Imran Khan supporters outside the former premier’s home as security officials tried to arrest him for the second time, deepening a political crisis that’s overshadowing the nation’s economic turmoil.
Police fired tear gas and water cannons at Khan’s supporters late Tuesday to disperse them and clear the makeshift tents that have sprung up in the past few months around his home in the central city of Lahore. Protesters pelted the police with stones and broken bottles while a helicopter hovered over Khan’s house, television footage showed.
These supporters, which Khan’s aides say are in the thousands, have been camping there to prevent any arrest of the former cricket star. This latest arrest warrant is to compel Khan to turn up in court on March 18 and face charges for failing to disclose funds obtained from the sale of state gifts when he was in power.
“They think the nation will go sleep when Imran Khan is jailed,” Khan told his supporters in a video message from inside his home. “But you have to prove them wrong. You have to struggle for your rights and come out on streets.”
His supporters have started protests in the commercial capital of Karachi. If the protests spread it will prove to be another headache for Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif whose government is racing to secure bailout loans from the International Monetary Fund and avert a default. Khan is the most popular politician in Pakistan, an opinion survey showed, and his rallies have drawn tens of thousands of supporters.
Khan, 70, has said the court cases are an attempt to silence him as he pushes for early elections. Sharif has rebuffed his demands, saying the government will complete its term that ends in August and he needs to see through any IMF program.
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The government said the court cases and the arrest warrants have nothing to do with the elections.
“Instead of cooperating with law enforcement officials, Imran Khan is breaking the law, defying court orders and using his party workers — women and children as human shields to evade arrest and stoke unrest,” Minister of Information Marriyum Aurangzeb said.
A lower court in Islamabad had issued a second arrest warrant for Khan to compel him to appear before the judge. Khan evaded arrest last week when a police team came to his house and then he failed to appear in court on Monday, saying there were threats to his life.
Khan has challenged the arrest warrant at a High Court in the country’s capital of Islamabad, his aide Fawad Chaudhry said in a tweet.
The charge stems from the Election Commission that in October disqualified Khan from holding public office for allegedly hiding money from selling gifts received from foreign dignitaries and world leaders.
The commission’s investigation found Khan bought the gifts on concession prices from the state treasury. His purchases included one Graff and six Rolex watches assessed to be valued at $354,714 and jewelery worth $148,039. Some of them were sold in local markets, local media reported.
Khan has been largely confined to his home in Lahore since he was shot and wounded in the leg during a rally in November. He has been skipping court appearances in the many court cases he faces, saying there are threats to his life, and has requested that the hearings be carried out in a high-security judicial complex in Islamabad.
Prime Minister Sharif has become deeply unpopular as voters blame his coalition for the nation’s economic crisis. The Pakistani rupee has plummeted to new lows and inflation is hovering at a record high.
His government has raised energy prices and taxes and is racing to meet other conditions to revive a loan with the IMF. They need to avoid a default that can make borrowing costs higher and cut off market access to credit.
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