Police surrounded the home of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday, claiming he was harboring dozens of people allegedly involved in violent protests over his recent arrest.
The police deployment is likely to anger Khan’s many supporters and raise concerns about further clashes between them and security forces. Last week, Khan’s supporters attacked public property and military installations after he was dragged from the courtroom and detained.
The popular opposition leader was released over the weekend and returned to his home in an upmarket district of Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city and the capital of the Punjab region.
On Wednesday, Khan took to Twitter after 200 police officers surrounded the house and a prison van turned up at the scene.
“Probably my last tweet before my next arrest,” Khan tweeted. «The police have surrounded my house.»
Earlier on Wednesday, Amir Mir, a spokesman for the Punjab provincial government, said Khan has 24 hours to hand over 40 suspects who are allegedly hiding in his home or face a police raid. Mir told a news conference that 3,400 suspects have been arrested so far and more raids are planned.
Pakistani authorities have said they will prosecute civilians involved in the recent anti-government protests in military courts. Army chief General Asim Munir said in a speech to troops on Wednesday that «recently planned and orchestrated tragic incidents will never be allowed again at any cost.»
Advocacy group Amnesty International and the Pakistan Human Rights Commission said they were alarmed by the government’s plan.
Dinushika Dissanayake, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for South Asia, said trying civilians in military courts is contrary to international law.
Military trials in Pakistan are often held behind closed doors, depriving civilians of some of their basic rights, including the right to retain a lawyer of their choice.
A wave of violence had gripped Pakistan’s capital and other urban areas following Khan’s dramatic arrest in court. Khan’s supporters set fire to buildings and vehicles and attacked police and military personnel and facilities. Ten people were killed in the clashes and more than 4,000 were arrested.
The Supreme Court subsequently ordered Khan’s release and criticized the manner in which he was arrested.
On Wednesday, a high court in Islamabad extended Khan’s bail and protection against arrest until the end of the month. However, his legal team fears that he could be arrested in old cases.
Khan, 70, was ousted by a vote of no confidence in parliament last year. He currently faces more than 100 cases, mainly on charges of inciting people to violence, threatening officials and defying a ban on demonstrations. He is also facing a corruption case along with his wife.
In recent days, the government of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif accused Khan of harboring suspects linked to last week’s attacks.
Meanwhile, Khan alleged that some of his followers were being tortured in police custody and demanded the immediate release of the detained women. He offered no evidence to back up those claims.
In a speech on Wednesday, Khan said he never encouraged his supporters to engage in violence. He claimed that the attacks on the military installations were orchestrated by unknown elements, part of an alleged conspiracy to turn his party against the military, but provided no evidence.