Pakistani police pause siege of ex-PM Imran Khan's home after protestor clashes
Pakistani police have paused a siege at the home of former prime minister Imran Khan after he failed to appear in court on graft charges.
Police, who were attempting to arrest Mr Khan, had clashed with protestors outside his home in Lahore since besieging it on Tuesday. Demonstrations eventually spread to other major cities, including Karachi, Islamabad, the garrison city of Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Quetta.
Supporters of the 70-year-old hurled rocks and bricks, and swung batons snatched from officers, while police responded with the use of tear gas, water cannons and armoured vehicles, in an attempt to control the protests.
But by Wednesday afternoon, the situation in Lahore calmed when the police stepped back, apparently to ease tensions.
Footage of protestors and police clashing in Pakistan
Shortly afterwards, more supporters of Mr Khan joined those outside and inside his home. Many chanted Allahu akbar, the Arabic phrase for "God is great", as the former PM, still wearing a gas mask, greeted them.
Azhar Siddique, another lawyer for Mr Khan, said the Lahore High Court ordered police to halt the operation outside his home until Thursday, though they would remain deployed nearby.
Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Khan emerged from his house to meet with supporters, who had faced tear gas and police batons through the night to save him from arrest.
He said he was ready to travel to Islamabad on March 18 under his arrest warrant, but police did not accept the offer.
Mr Khan later posed for cameras seated at a long table, showing off piles of spent tear gas shells he said had been collected from around his home.
"What crime did I commit that my house has been attacked like this," he tweeted.
Fawad Chaudhry, a senior party official from Mr Khan's party claimed that hundreds of his supporters had been injured in the clashes.
On Tuesday, about a dozen police and some 35 of Mr Khan's supporters were reported injured as tear gas shells and pieces of bricks littered the pavement.
The Punjab provincial government, in a statement, said more than 100 police officers were injured in clashes with Mr Khan's supporters.
They denied the former cricket star's allegation that officers were using live ammunition.
Mr Khan, who was ousted in a no-confidence vote in April, was 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 his assets.
The former premier has avoided appearances before the court since November, when he was wounded in a gun attack at a protest rally in eastern Punjab province, claiming he was not medically fit to travel from Lahore to Islamabad to face indictment.
Last week, he went to Islamabad to appear before three courts, but he failed to appear before the fourth court to face indictment in the graft case, which is a legal process for starting his trial.
Mr Khan has claimed that the string of cases against him, which includes terrorism charges, are a plot by the government of his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, to discredit the former cricket star turned Islamist politician.
In Pakistan's turbulent political history, at least seven former prime minister have been arrested and tried by courts since the country gained independence from British colonial rule, in 1947.
Former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged by the military government in 1979 after his ouster in a coup.
His daughter, Benazir Bhutto, served twice as prime minister and was assassinated, during an election rally in 2007.
Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's longest-serving premier and the brother of current prime minister, was in office from 1990 to 1993 and from 1997 to 1999, when he was ousted in a military coup, by General Pervez Musharraf.
He returned as premier in 2013, but was once again removed by Pakistan's Supreme Court in 2017. He was later arrested, tried and convicted in a corruption case, although he has always denied the charges and today lives in exile in the UK.
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