ISLAMABAD, March 18 (Reuters) – Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan officially marked his attendance at court in the country’s capital on Saturday, his aide said, complying with court orders after a confrontation with police led to a intense clashes with his supporters.
Local media outlet Geo TV reported that the Islamabad Magistrate’s Court had quashed the arrest warrants against him due to his attendance.
Khan, in office from 2018 to 2022, faces a series of legal challenges, including one that prompted an unsuccessful attempt to arrest him on Tuesday, sparking clashes between supporters and police, which also took place on Saturday.
Khan’s aide, Fawad Chaudhry, told Reuters the former prime minister’s attendance had been officially registered by the court and he had left to return home to the city of Lahore.
According to local media, Khan’s vehicle reached Islamabad’s court complex amid clashes between police and his supporters. They reported that, given the chaos around the compound, he was unable to physically enter the courtroom and was eventually allowed by the judge to sign in from his vehicle.
He was ordered on Saturday to answer in court on charges of illegally selling state gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries while in office.
Khan says he followed legal procedures to acquire the gifts.
Earlier in the day, police entered Khan’s home in Lahore after he left for his court appearance in Islamabad and arrested several of his supporters over allegations of attacks on officers in clashes earlier. during the week.
Another Khan aide, Shireen Mazari, said police broke down the front door of Khan’s house.
In Islamabad, the police chief told local broadcaster Geo News that Khan’s supporters attacked police near the courthouse and fired tear gas canisters, prompting police to fire more tear gas.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif took to Twitter to criticize Khan, saying he was using people as human shields and trying to intimidate the judiciary.
Khan has led nationwide protests since his ousting from power last year and brought a series of cases against him.
Earlier this week, police and Khan’s supporters clashed outside his home during the attempted arrest.
Hours before leaving his home, the former cricketer star told Reuters he had formed a committee to lead his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), should he be arrested.
Khan, who was shot and injured while campaigning in November, said in the interview that the threat to his life was greater than before and claimed – without providing evidence – that his political opponents and l army wanted to prevent him from standing for election later this year. .
The military and government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Sharif’s government has denied being behind the cases against Khan. The military, which has an outsized role in Pakistan, having ruled the country for almost half of its 75-year history, said it remained neutral on politics.
The court has already issued warrants for Khan’s arrest in the case because he failed to show up for previous hearings despite being summoned.
On his assurance that he would appear on Saturday, the court granted Khan protection from arrest, but he said he feared police and the government were planning to take him into custody.
“It is now clear that, although I have been released on bail in all my cases, the government (of the Pakistan Democratic Movement coalition) intends to arrest me. Although knowing their dishonest intentions, I go to Islamabad and to court because I believe in the rule of law,” Khan said on Twitter.
“It is also evident now that the whole siege of Lahore was not intended to ensure that I appeared in court in any case, but was intended to take me to jail so that I would be unable to carry out our election campaign. “
Pakistan’s information minister said this week that the government had nothing to do with the police action and that the police were complying with court orders.
CLASH OUTSIDE LAHORE HOUSE
During Tuesday’s attempted arrest, hundreds of supporters blocked police from entering the premises. Authorities said they were attacked by petrol bombs, iron bars and slingshots.
Many supporters remained to guard Khan’s house as he left for Islamabad on Saturday.
Punjab provincial police chief Usman Anwar told a news conference in Lahore that officers came to Khan’s home on Saturday to intercept people who had been involved in earlier clashes with the police and had arrested 61 people, in particular for throwing Molotov cocktails.
Khan’s party shared footage with reporters that appeared to show police in the garden of the Lahore house beating supporters with batons.
Khan said his wife was alone in the house during the raid.
Pakistani Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah told Geo News that police recovered weapons from premises outside Khan’s home and had a warrant to carry out the search. Sanaullah said law enforcement did not enter the residence, remaining in the garden and driveway.
Reporting by Akhtar Soomro in Islamabad, Ariba Shahid in Karachi, Gibran Peshimam and Mubasher Bukhari in Lahore Editing by William Mallard, Frances Kerry and Emelia Sithole-Matarise
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