ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani police on Tuesday scuffled with supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan outside his home in the eastern city of Lahore as officers arrived to serve a warrant for the 71-year-old opposition leader to appear in court later this week on graft charges.
Khan has been ordered to appear before a judge in Islamabad on Friday to answer charges of illegally selling state gifts he had received during his term as premier and concealing assets.
No injuries were immediately reported in the violence and it was not clear if police would deliver the warrant.
Khan, who was ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament last April, has claimed that the string of cases against him, which include terrorism charges, are a plot by the government of his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, to discredit the former cricket star turned Islamist politician.
“We will arrest him, and will do it on a court order,” Shahzad Bukhari, deputy-inspector general of Islamabad police, told reporters in Lahore.
However, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a top leader from Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, said the government was trying to disrupt law and order by sending police to Khan’s house.
“We are ready to find a middle way through talks with police, but we should know what the purpose of today’s police raid is,” he said.
Fawad Chaudhry, another senior party leader, said Khan’s legal team was in the process of submitting a request to the Islamabad High Court to have warrants against Khan suspended. Khan’s lawyers were also legally challenging the warrants before another Islamabad court later Tuesday.
Police meanwhile said reinforcement were on their way Khan’s house to bring the situation under control.
Earlier Tuesday, the government barred officials from keeping valuable state gifts received while in office in an effort to set an example amid entrenched corruption. The ban states that no official — including the country’s prime minister, figurehead president and Cabinet ministers — can keep a gift that exceed $300 in value.
The ban says any recipient must deposit such a gift with the state repository, known as Toshakhana in the Urdu language, within a month of receiving it. The gifts would from now on be perceived as state property, it added.
Impoverished Pakistan has been embroiled in a deepening economic crisis and is trying to negotiate a desperately needed bailout from the International Monetary Fund to avoid a default.
Until his ouster, Khan’s government had blocked the release of any information about gifts officials received from visiting dignitaries. In the past, officials receiving a gift — regardless of its value — would symbolically reimburse state coffers with a small amount and keep the gift.
In a major U-turn, Sharif’s government on Monday publicized a list of gifts given to officials from past administrations, listing each item’s value and the minor amounts paid by the recipients since 2002.