- Caroline Davies and Gareth Evans
- in Islamabad and London
Pakistan’s opposition leader, Imran Khan, greeted his supporters outside his home, just hours after violent clashes broke out during a police attempt to arrest him.
He addressed the crowd and took pictures with those gathered near his compound in the city of Lahore.
In one of the videos he can be seen wearing a gas mask. Police fired tear gas shells during the clashes throughout the night.
An official told the BBC that the arrest had been temporarily halted.
Punjab’s interim information minister, Amir Mir, said the court’s order to arrest and detain Khan was suspended to allow a cricket tournament to be held nearby because the standoff between police and his supporters had caused major traffic disruptions.
He added that the process would likely resume after the Pakistan Super League final on March 19.
Khan, who was ousted as prime minister last April, faces allegations that he sold government gifts while in office. But he says the case is politically motivated.
Paramilitary officers and guards were seen leaving the Zaman Garden suburb where Khan’s house is located, and some individuals were reported to have abandoned roadblocks and checkpoints.
Khan then appeared outside and spoke to his supporters.
He wrote on the account of the PTI party on Twitter: “The crowd of fans repulsed the police and guards sent to harm Imran Khan.”
On Tuesday, police in riot gear fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of angry Khan supporters at the compound. Some members of the crowd threw stones and bricks.
The police then tried to storm the compound to arrest Khan for not appearing in a court in Islamabad.
Khan said he did not attend due to security concerns, as two armed attacks had taken place there before. The politician offered to sign a pledge that he would appear in court on Saturday.
Khan told the BBC earlier that there was “no reason” for the police to arrest him as he had taken protective bail until Saturday.
He added that the government is determined to put him behind bars after previous failed attempts.
He said that the authorities were trying to arrest him to prevent his party from participating in the upcoming elections. But, he added, “Whether I’m in jail or not, they can’t stop my party from winning.”
Minister Marium Aurangzeb said the move had nothing to do with the election and that the police were only complying with court orders.
It considered that Khan was using his party workers, women and children as human shields to avoid arrest and stoke unrest.
Since his removal from office, Khan has been an outspoken critic of the country’s government and military. He has begun a tour of the country giving fiery speeches calling for early elections later this year.
He continued to pressure his successor, Shahbaz Sharif, with demonstrations. He blames him for an assassination attempt in November in which he was shot in the leg.
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