Pakistani police fire tear gas shells at Imran Khan’s house after former leader resists arrest

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) Pakistani police fired tear gas on the grounds of Imran Khan’s Lahore home on Wednesday after a night of violent clashes between security personnel and the former prime minister’s supporters, while authorities tried to arrest him for a second day.

A Pakistani police official told CNN on condition of anonymity that a total of 69 people, including 34 police officers, have been injured so far in the violence in the eastern city.

Clashes broke out on Tuesday after police arrived at the property to arrest Khan for failing to appear in court on corruption charges.

Footage shared by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and local media showed police using tear gas and water cannons in an attempt to disperse Khan’s supporters on Tuesday. According to a tweet by the Islamabad Police, the former prime minister’s supporters threw stones in return.

Protests broke out in major cities across Pakistan on Tuesday in support of Khan, who released a video on social media asking his followers to “come out” in support of his movement after being detained.

Khan, who was ousted in a parliamentary no-confidence vote last April, has since led a popular campaign against the current government, alleging that it colluded with the military to remove him from office. He accused the Pakistani authorities of trying to arrest him in order to remove him from the upcoming by-elections in April and the general election in October.

,[The government]”They also know that if I come to power, I will hold them accountable,” Khan told CNN on Tuesday.

The former leader says the charges against him are politically motivated and has warned that an attempt to arrest him could lead to a dangerous escalation of political violence in the country. He also believes that Pakistan’s ruling coalition may eventually use “the pretext of violence” to delay the upcoming vote.

In a statement to CNN, Pakistan’s information minister denied any political involvement in the matter.

Maryam Aurangzeb said, “The government has nothing to do with (Khan’s) arrest and the arrest has nothing to do with the election. The police are only following the orders of the court.”

He said, “Instead of cooperating with law enforcement officials, Imran Khan is breaking the law, disobeying court orders and using his party workers as human shields to avoid arrest and foment unrest.” Have been.”

As clashes escalated on Tuesday, according to Khan’s spokesman and other supporters, police cut off electricity to Khan’s home and turned off street lights in the Zaman Park neighborhood.

Musarrat Cheema, former spokesperson of the Punjab government, wrote on Twitter, “We are ready to face all forms of fascism to save Imran Khan.” The whole country is standing with the Chairman Imran Khan.

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is pictured in Lahore, Pakistan, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023.

missed court date

Khan is accused of illegally buying and selling gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries while in office, which he has dismissed as “biased”.

On Monday, the Islamabad High Court issued an arrest warrant against Khan in the case and produced him before the court on March 18.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah tweeted on Tuesday, “On the orders of the court, the absconding person will be arrested and produced there.”

But Khan’s lawyers have argued that he has previously failed to appear in court because he cannot leave his residence in Lahore because of security concerns. According to his legal team, he can appear only through video link.

The political turmoil comes at a time when Pakistan’s government awaits a delayed bailout from the International Monetary Fund that would help with the country’s cost of living crisis and ailing economy.

Khan was only arrested in 2007 by then-president and military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who died earlier this year.

But he told CNN on Tuesday that he was “mentally prepared to spend the night in a cell.”

Khan said, “I want a proper warrant of arrest and I want to see that, my lawyer wants to see the warrant.”

“It’s a matter of time. I’m sure they’ll come in and arrest me, I’m ready for that,” he said, “I know what the intention is. They want me out of the race. They want me to match.” want out of the party so that they can win the election.”

CNN’s Ajaz Syed contributed to this report.

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