Imran Khan, the principal opposition leader in Pakistan, has greeted his supporters outside his home, hours after police attempted to arrest him amid violent clashes. He addressed the crowd and posed for photographs with those gathered near his Lahore residence.
One video depicts him wearing a gas mask. Throughout the night, police fired tear gas shells during violent confrontations. One official reportedly informed sources that the arrest operation had been suspended.
Amir Mir, Punjab's interim minister of information, stated that the court-ordered operation to detain Mr. Khan was suspended on Wednesday to allow a nearby cricket tournament to take place, as the standoff was causing significant traffic disruption. He stated that the operation would likely continue after the Pakistan Super League (PSL) championship game on March 19. After the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team by gunmen, no international cricket was played in Pakistan for six years. In addition, it took international players years to return, and the ongoing tournament requires a substantial security operation.
The Lahore High Court ordered police to delay Mr. Khan's arrest until Thursday late Wednesday, pending the outcome of a hearing regarding the legality of the arrest warrant. Officers and paramilitary rangers were observed leaving the suburb of Zaman Park where the house is located, with some reportedly abandoning roadblocks and checkpoints. Mr. Khan then emerged into the open air and addressed his supporters. People pushed back the police and rangers who were sent to harm Imran Khan.
The 70-year-old former prime minister, who was ousted in April of last year, is accused of selling state gifts while in office. He claims that the case is motivated by politics. On Wednesday, the streets surrounding Mr. Khan's residence were littered with debris and burning barricades. His supporters gathered on a major highway in Lahore and chanted his name on one of the roads.
Several hours earlier, officers in riot gear fired tear gas and water cannons in an attempt to disperse hundreds of supporters at the compound. Some crowd members threw rocks and bricks.
The police then attempted to force entry into the compound in order to arrest Mr. Khan who failed to appear in court in Islamabad. Waqar Khan, a supporter of the PTI, told sources, "I have never seen such brutality, and that is what shocks me. Mr. Khan stated that he did not appear in court due to security concerns, as two militant attacks had occurred there previously. The politician has offered to sign a promise to appear in court on Saturday. Previously, he informed sources that there was "no reason" for police to arrest him, as he had posted bail until Saturday. He added that the government was determined to imprison him despite previous failures. He claimed that the authorities were attempting to arrest him to prevent his party from running in upcoming elections.
The minister of the government, Marriyum Aurangzeb, stated that the move had nothing to do with the elections and that the police were simply following court orders.
She asserted that Mr. Khan used his party members, women, and children as human shields to avoid arrest and incite unrest. Mr. Khan has been a vocal critic of the government and the country's military since he was removed from office.