Pakistani city tense as police say will search Imran Khan’s house

Operation in Lahore could trigger more violence in the nuclear-armed country grappling with political and economic instability.

Pakistan unrest
Police officers patrol around Khan's Zaman Park residence in Lahore [K M Chaudary/AP]

Tension prevails in the Pakistani city of Lahore where a government delegation arrived to finalise “SOPs for the search” of the house of former Prime Minister Imran Khan in order to look for suspects who attacked government and military installations last week.

Amir Mir, the information minister of Punjab province, told Al Jazeera on Friday that warrants to search Khan’s house in provincial capital Lahore’s Zaman Park area have been issued to the police.

Pakistan’s news outlet reported that a four-member delegation of the Punjab government arrived at Khan’s residence on Friday afternoon. TV footage showed government officials and police entering the home with scores of cameras on their backs.

Mir later confirmed that the team was sent to finalise “SOPs for the search of the house”.

Pakistan unrest
Police officers near Khan’s residence in Lahore on Thursday [K M Chaudary/AP]

On Wednesday, Mir had gave Khan a 24-hour deadline to hand over the suspects. On Friday, he told Reuters news agency that hundreds of policemen would conduct the search.

“We have information that there are around 40 terrorists hiding there, so I think we will need some 400 police to search the house,” he said.

The provincial official also ruled out the government’s plans to rearrest Khan during the search operation. “We don’t have any plans to arrest Imran Khan,” he said.

In a tweet on Friday, Khan said the “unprecedented crackdown” on his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and its supporters was being conducted under a “reign of terror”.

The search operation at Khan’s residence could trigger more violence as the South Asian country grapples with political and economic instability.

In March, the Zaman Park area was the site of pitched battles between the 70-year-old former cricket star’s supporters and police who had tried to arrest him for not showing up in court.

Khan was eventually arrested on May 9 on corruption charges, which he denies, and was later set free on court-ordered bail that expires later this month.

His arrest triggered a wave of violence that saw supporters attacking military installations and other government buildings. The clashes came as the country of 220 million faces its worst ever economic crisis, with critical IMF funding needed to avert a balance of payment crisis delayed for months.

On Wednesday, the Punjab government asked Khan to hand over supporters who it blamed for the attacks on the powerful army and who it says are hiding in his home.

Khan has denied sheltering anyone involved in the violence. On Thursday, his aide Iftikhar Durrani allowed journalists into some areas of Khan’s Lahore home to “look for terrorists”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies