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Pakistan: Imran Khan's supporters clash with police

March 18, 2023

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan has managed to avoid a hearing into charges he unlawfully sold state gifts after clashes between his supporters and police.

A supporter of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan gestures during a clash outside Federal Judicial Complex in Islamabad
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had been facing indictment on charges of corruption and for unlawfully selling state gifts when court proceedings were called off Image: Akhtar Soomro/REUTERS

A court in Pakistan on Saturday had to cancel a hearing involving former Prime Minister Imran Khan after hundreds of his supporters clashed with police outside of the court building in the capital city, Islamabad.

The court had been expected to indict Khan on charges of corruption and for unlawfully selling state gifts.

There were violent confrontations involving Khan's supporters and police at the entrance of the building with stones, petrol bombs and pieces of brick lobbed at police who were guarding the premises.

Pakistan court drops arrest warrant against Khan

Earlier in the day, police entered Khan's home in Lahore, the former prime minister said in a tweet. Dozens of Khan's supporters were arrested and weapons were seized when police entered the house in the city of Lahore.

A day earlier, one of the country's top courts halted an arrest warrant for the former head of government.

Imran Khan, whose government was ousted by a no-confidence vote in April 2022, has been calling for snap elections. He was replaced by a coalition government which Imran Khan claims "cannot win free and fair elections."

Police officers clash with a supporter of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan
The former premier's supporters threw stones, petrol bombs and pieces of brick at police guarding the courtroomImage: Akhtar Soomro/REUTERS

What are the allegations against Imran Khan?

Khan faces charges for unlawfully selling state gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries will he was in office.

Khan says he received the gifts legally.

The former prime minister told the Reuters news agency that he had formed a committee to lead his center-right Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in case of his arrest.

The former prime minister failed to attend a hearing on Tuesday, after which a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Imran Khan told DW that he did not attend the hearing because it was a "death trap" that lacked proper security guarantees.

"The only reason this whole big thing blew up because of one appearance that I didn't make," he said. "And that appearance was in this in a court where all my security team told me that there was no protection."

Khan: Only missed this hearing over security concern

"On one hand, the government says your life is under threat. Secondly, they want me to appear in this particular court, which is a death trap," he said. "It was only that one appearance I missed and that led to these warrants."

Khan was shot and wounded while campaigning in November.

The former prime minister has argued that the charges against him are politicized, constituting an attempt to prevent him from running from office.

"Ever since my government was ousted 11 months ago, there were 37 by-elections. My party has swept 30 of them," he said in an interview for DW. "All the opponents are petrified that whenever there are elections, they will be decimated. As a result, they are trying to do everything to get me out of the race."

"The reason why there is political chaos right now in Pakistan is because we have a hotchpotch of a government which has failed completely," he said.

Police raid Imran Khan's Lahore home

Speaking about the police raid at his home, Khan said that the "siege" in Lahore was aimed at preventing the politician from conducting his election campaign.

He said that it was "clear" that the government sought to arrest him despite the suspension of the Tuesday warrant. But Khan said that he was "going to Islamabad to appear in court because I believe in the rule of law."

Meanwhile, parts of the capital were sealed by police on Saturday, Islamabad police chief Akbar Nasir said.

"We have deployed heavy security to make sure there is no threat to his life," Nasir was cited by German news agency dpa as saying.

kb,sdi/jcg (Reuters, dpa, AP)