- By Samuel Horti in London and Caroline Davies in Islamabad
- BBC News
A court in Islamabad has canceled a hearing on charges that former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan sold state gifts following clashes between his supporters and police.
Police said supporters of Mr Khan threw rocks and fired tear gas near the court complex.
The former cricketer-turned-politician has since returned home to Lahore, where police raided in his absence and made arrests.
He denies the charges against him.
The chaotic scenes saw Mr Khan unable to enter court before the judge agreed that he could mark his attendance and return home.
The ex-PM says the charges against him are politically motivated, but says he is appearing in court ‘because I believe in the rule of law’. The government says the charges against him have nothing to do with politics.
He told Reuters he had formed a committee to lead his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), in case of arrest.
About 4,000 security officials, including elite commandos and counter-terrorism squads, have been deployed in Islamabad, AFP reported.
Police blocked the highway leading to Islamabad with shipping containers and large trucks to stop Mr Khan’s convoy approaching the city.
Officers armed with batons and tear gas canisters let his vehicle pass, but most of his supporters were turned away.
Speaking to the BBC as the convoy came to a standstill, Mr Khan said authorities were trying to jail him to keep him out of the race for the general election later this year. “I won’t be able to campaign – that’s all,” he said.
Earlier this week he told the BBC: ‘Whether I’m in jail or not, they won’t be able to stop my party winning.
In a sign of the deep divisions within Pakistani politics, current Prime Minister Shebaz Sharif tweeted that Mr Khan’s “recent antics” had “exposed his fascist and militant tendencies” and accused him of to use his followers as “human shields”. .
Earlier in the week, Lahore police tried to arrest Mr Khan after he missed a court hearing, and officers clashed with supporters outside his home. The court on Friday granted Mr Khan protection from arrest on the assurance that he would appear in court on Saturday.
On Saturday, Lahore police used a backhoe to enter Mr Khan’s residence in an operation involving nearly 1,000 security officers, according to local media. Police later said they had arrested Khan supporters who had been implicated in violence against police earlier in the week, including for throwing Molotov cocktails.
The Punjab police chief said some officers would remain outside Mr Khan’s residence.
Mr Khan was ousted as Prime Minister last April in a vote of no confidence but has kept the pressure on his successor Mr Sharif with protests and speeches calling for a planned election to be held early later this year.
He accuses Mr Sharif of attempting to murder at a November rally in which he was shot in the leg. Authorities denied the charge.
Mr. Khan faces several court cases, including terrorism charges. He cited various reasons – including security concerns and injuries from the assassination attempt in November – for not appearing for the hearings.