Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Pakistan police use tear gas, water cannon to disperse Imran Khan supporters

Clashes have erupted between Pakistani police and supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan ahead of his potential arrest in the eastern city of Lahore. Pakistan riot police used water cannon and tear gas to push back his supporters.

Police on Tuesday fired tear gas and water cannon as hundreds of members and supporters of Khan’s Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party gathered outside his Zaman Park residence.

Television images showed police approaching Khan’s residence accompanied by an armoured vehicle. Khan’s supporters were also seen throwing stones at the police.

Syed Shehzad Nadeem Bukhari, a senior officer in the Islamabad Police, told reporters the officers intended to arrest Khan, 70.

“We are here to fulfil the warrant and to arrest Imran Khan,” he stated.

Minutes later, Khan posted a video message on Twitter, saying his supporters should fight for their rights – “for real freedom” – if he is arrested.

“Police are here to send me to jail. They think if Imran Khan goes to jail, this nation will go to sleep. You have to prove them wrong,” he said in the video.

“[If] something happens to me, if they send me to jail, or if I am killed, you have to show you can fight without me as well,” Khan added.

Police earlier said they were going to Khan’s house to hand over the two arrest warrants issued by a court in Islamabad on Monday in corruption and “terrorism” cases.

One of the warrants relates to Khan allegedly threatening a female judge during one of his speeches last year. The other concerns accusations that Khan sold state gifts and concealed assets while in office as prime minister, an office he held from 2018 to 2022.

Since losing a vote of confidence in parliament in April, Khan has demanded a general election in rallies across the country. He has said the cases against him are politically motivated.

His successor, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, has rejected Khan’s demand to hold early polls, which are scheduled later this year.

Speaking to reporters outside Khan’s residence, senior PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi noted there is no justification for the police to attack people.

“We are ready to talk,” he continued, adding that he wants to see the warrants himself and will speak to Khan once he gets to see them.

“What do they [police] want?” he asked, adding, “After hearing their point of view, I will have a meeting with Khan sahib. We may be ready for arrest ourselves.”

On Monday evening, Khan addressed a large rally in Lahore as part of the campaign for the Punjab provincial elections, which are scheduled on April 30.

Khan’s party has repeatedly expressed its concern regarding his safety after the former premier was shot in the leg during a rally in November.

Since then, he has been staying at his Lahore residence except for a visit to Islamabad last month for a court appearance.

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