As part of a crackdown on people involved in recent conflicts with the security forces, Pakistani police have detained dozens of Imran Khan followers and aides in searches in two cities, Khan’s party and police said on Monday (Mar 20).
Last week, in Lahore, supporters of Khan’s political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), clashed with police while attempting to arrest him at his residence. Additionally, in Islamabad, PTI supporters clashed with police as Khan arrived to attend a court hearing on Saturday.
The police have arrested approximately 285 PTI supporters in Lahore and Islamabad, and carried out raids at the houses of all major leaders, as per the statement given by Fawad Chaudhry, Khan’s aide.
Khan, a former cricket star, was prime minister from 2018 until 2022, when he was ousted from office in a parliamentary vote. Since then he has been demanding a snap election and holding protest rallies across the country to press his case.
His successor as prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, has rejected his demand and said an election would be held as scheduled later this year.
Khan, 70, is facing several legal cases, including one that prompted a failed attempt to arrest him on Tuesday after a court issued warrants for his arrest for not appearing before it.
Clashes between Khan’s supporters and the security forces have brought a new round of political chaos to Pakistan, which is in the midst of a crippling economic crisis.
Khan says the government and the powerful military are trying to stop him from contesting the next election, scheduled for November. If convicted in a case, Khan could face disqualification from the polls.
Both the government and military deny this.
Police in both Lahore and Islamabad confirmed the raids and the arrest of PTI workers they said were involved in clashes with police and arson.
“Police are raiding the houses because seven cases on various charges, including terrorism, have been registered against the leaders and workers,” Lahore police chief Bilal Kamiana stated, referring to the clashes with police.
Khan, remembered by many for his success as a cricket player and later for his charity work, won considerable support among sections of the electorate with his conservative, nationalistic policies.