The standoff in Lahore highlighted the growing political crisis in the nuclear-armed nation that has also been devastated by recent floods and terrorist attacks. The protests by Khan’s followers spread to the cities of Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Quetta, Sialkot and Faisalabad, with reports of many wounded.
The violence lasted for more than 20 hours outside Khan’s residence, with Pakistani news channels showing police firing tear gas shells and using water cannons to disperse the party workers, who responded by throwing stones.
Police finally pulled back in the late afternoon citing the need oversee a major cricket match in the evening, followed by an order from the Lahore Supreme Court suspending the operation until Thursday morning.
The former prime minister came out of his house early Wednesday morning to meet his supporters. He called the assault a “brutal and unlawful crackdown.”
He addressed the nation through a video link with a pile of spent tear gas shells on his desk. “It’s not just shells, but bullets too are being fired at my residence,” he said. “I was ready to go to jail, and my bags were packed, but my workers stopped me because they knew that ever since we were ousted, our leaders have been subjected to custodial torture. My workers feared the same for me.”
Khan was ousted from power through a parliamentary vote of no-confidence in April. Since then, he has been holding massive rallies to pressure the government for new elections. He has also been facing dozens of legal cases, including charges of terrorism and accusations of graft and threatening a female judge.
Khan said he was ready to travel to Islamabad this coming Saturday as required by the arrest warrant, but police refused his offer.
Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, in a statement shared with media outlets, said, “Imran Khan is breaking the law, defying the court orders and using his workers, women and children as human shields.”
Before the assault on Khan’s home was called off, a spokesman for the Islamabad police, which was leading the operation, Taqi Jawwad, said five members of his force, including a senior official, were injured by the protesters’ stones.
Geo News, a local channel, quoted Lahore police saying that about 25 officers were injured. Dozens of Khan’s supporters were reported injured by his party.
By late afternoon, police appeared to pull back from Khan’s residence, and one official said authorities had suspended their operation for now, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
He cited the need to ensure security for the Pakistan Super League cricket match in Lahore that evening but said the operation could subsequently resume.
The arrest warrant was issued when Khan failed to appear before a judge Friday in Islamabad, where he is facing charges of illegally selling gifts that he received from foreign dignitaries during his term as prime minister.
He has been avoiding court appearances since November, when he was wounded in a shooting at a protest march in the country’s most populous province, Punjab. He said that he was still not medically fit for the long travels.
Khan’s lawyers are also seeking suspension of the arrest warrant by the Islamabad high court.
*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.