Supporters of the former prime minister engaged in pitched battles with security forces before a Pakistani high court ordered police to postpone an operation to arrest Imran Khan for another day on Thursday, defusing a surge in violence.
The Lahore high court has extended its order to halt the police operation until Friday, according to Fawad Chaudhry, Khan’s aide. Amir Mir, the minister of state information, has officially confirmed the judicial directive.
Supporters of Khan, armed with batons and slingshots, blocked police from entering his home on Tuesday and Wednesday; he is wanted for failing to appear in court on charges of illegally selling state gifts given to him while he was prime minister. Khan has denied any wrongdoing.
Conflicts broke out on Tuesday between Khan’s supporters and security forces in his Lahore neighborhood as a result of a court-ordered attempt to arrest him, heightening concerns about the political stability of nuclear-armed Pakistan during an economic crisis.
After protesters set fire to police cars, a water cannon truck, and dozens of cars and motorcycles while throwing petrol bombs at security forces, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, the violence subsided on Wednesday when the high court halted the police operation.
A lower court in Islamabad issued a warrant for Khan’s arrest after he failed to appear in court on charges that he illegally sold state gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries while he served as prime minister from 2018 to 2022. Khan is a former international cricketer.
Khan has denied any wrongdoing. In their ruling, the National Election Commission disqualified Khan from running for office for one legislative term.
Khan has been in court since early last year, when he was first voted out of office by parliament. Since then, he’s been holding nationwide protest rallies and calling for an immediate election, and he was even shot and injured during one of these demonstrations. Khan’s demands have been denied by the current prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, who has promised that elections will go ahead as planned later this year.