The police surrounded the home of the former Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan on Wednesday, claiming he was protecting dozens of people allegedly involved in violent protests over his recent detention.
The police deployment was likely to anger Khan’s many supporters and raised fears of more clashes between them and the security forces. Last week, Khan supporters had attacked public property and military installations after he was dragged out of a courtroom and taken into custody.
The popular opposition leader was was released over the weekend and returned to his home in an exclusive district of Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city and the capital of the Punjab region.
On Wednesday, Khan took to Twitter after 200 police officers surrounded the house and a prison van turned up at the scene.
Imran Khan protests: Supporters clash with Pakistani police, face tear gas after Khan’s arrest
“Probably my last tweet before my next arrest,” Khan tweeted. “The police have surrounded my house.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Amir Mir, a spokesman for the Punjab provincial government, said Khan has 24 hours to hand over 40 suspects allegedly holed up in his home or face a police raid. Mir told a press conference that so far 3,400 suspects have been arrested and that more raids are planned.
Pakistani authorities have said they will prosecute civilians involved in recent anti-government protests in military courts. The army chief, General Asim Munir, in a speech to the troops on Wednesday, said that “recently planned and orchestrated tragic incidents will never be allowed again at any cost.”
The advocacy group Amnesty International and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said they were concerned about the government’s plan.
Dinushika Dissanayake, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for South Asia, said it was against international law to try civilians in military courts.
Military trials in Pakistan are usually held behind closed doors, depriving civilians of some of their basic rights, including hiring a lawyer of their choice.
A wave of violence had engulfed Pakistan’s capital and other urban areas following Khan’s dramatic arrest from a courtroom. Khan supporters set fire to buildings and vehicles and attacked police and military personnel and facilities. Ten people were killed in the clashes, and more than 4,000 were arrested.
The Supreme Court later ordered Khan’s release, criticizing the manner in which he was arrested.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s arrest sparks anger and protests across the country
On Wednesday, an Islamabad High Court extended Khan’s bail and protection from arrest until the end of the month. But his legal team fears he may be arrested in old cases.
Khan, 70, was removed by a vote of no confidence in the Riksdag last year. He currently faces more than 100 cases, mainly accused of inciting people to violence, threatening officials and defying a ban on demonstrations. He is also facing a graft case along with his wife.
In recent days, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s government has accused Khan of protecting suspects linked to last week’s attacks.
Khan, meanwhile, alleged that some of his supporters were being tortured in police custody and demanded the immediate release of women prisoners. He provided no evidence to support these claims.
In a speech on Wednesday, Khan said he never encouraged his followers to engage in violence. He claimed that the attacks on military installations were orchestrated by unknown elements – part of an alleged conspiracy to pit his party against the military, but he provided no evidence.
—Associated Press writer Babar Dogar contributed to this story from Lahore, Pakistan.
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