Supporters of Imran Khan throw stones toward riot police officers firing tear gas in Lahore. AP
Supporters of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan threw bricks at police who fought back with clubs and tear gas for a second day Wednesday after officers tried to arrest the ousted premier for failing to appear in court on graft charges.
Police have been besieging the 70-year-old opposition leader’s house in the eastern city of Lahore since Tuesday while his supporters hurled rocks and bricks, and swung batons snatched from the officers.
Violence was also reported between Khan's supporters and police in other major cities, including Karachi, Islamabad, the garrison city of Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Quetta and elsewhere in Pakistan. The government was sending additional police to tackle the situation in Lahore's upscale area of Zaman Park, where Khan lives.
Early Wednesday, Khan emerged from his house to meet with his 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.
The confrontation outside continued and later, Khan 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 leader from Khan’s party claimed Wednesday that hundreds of Khan’s supporters were injured so far.
At the Islamabad High Court, Khan's lawyer Khawaja Haris and his team petitioned for the suspension of the arrest warrant for the former premier. The court was expected to issue a ruling about the suspension later Wednesday.
On Tuesday, about a dozen police and some 35 of Khan's supporters were reported injured as tear gas shells and pieces of bricks littered the pavement as Khan's followers fought back with batons they had brought to resist police.
The Punjab provincial government in a statement Wednesday said more than 100 police officers were injured in clashes with Khan’s supporters. They denied Khan's allegation that officers were using live ammunition.
Khan, who was ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament 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.
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.
From his home, Khan urged his followers on Tuesday to fight on even if he is arrested. "They think this nation will fall asleep when Imran Khan is jailed,” he wrote on Twitter. "You need to prove them wrong.”
On Wednesday, he tweeted that there was a plot "to abduct & assassinate” him.
"I have made a committee which will obviously take decisions once - if - I'm inside" jail, the 70-year-old said in an interview in his Lahore home before heading to Islamabad early on Saturday. He said there were 94 cases against him.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), which translates into Pakistan Movement for Justice, has 12 seats in the Senate, and the two main opposition parties Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) have 12 and 25 seats each.
For quite some time, the area became a battleground between the police and protesters. The government servants had planned the protest for the past two weeks and had made announcements to the effect.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Monday that he and the protesting proscribed Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) have the same objectives that there was no blasphemy against the Holy Prophet (PBUH) but their methods were different.
Sheikh Sultan has ordered the release of 399 prisoners of different nationalities from Sharjah's correctional and punitive establishments, ahead of the Holy Month of Ramadan.
Qatar's Interior Ministry described the building as a four-story structure in Doha's Bin Durham neighborhood. It said rescuers found seven survivors, while the one person killed had been inside the building at the time of the collapse.
A large number of diplomatic corps, officials of the UAE, prominent business individuals and Pakistani community residing in the UAE participated in the event.