The former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khanon Friday toned down his defiance campaign, saying he would allow a police search of his home over allegations that he was harboring suspects wanted for recent violence during anti-government protests by his supporters.
Khan, who faces a hundred legal cases against himalso appeared before a court in Lahore, his hometown, to request protection against his arrest in the multiple terrorism cases that the authorities have raised against the country’s main opposition leader.
He also condemned days of violence in which his supporters attacked public property and military installations after he was dragged out of a court and arrested on a corruption case in the capital, Islamabad, last week. At least 10 people have been killed in clashes between his supporters and police across the country.
The riots only subsided when the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered Khan’s release. Police were looking for Khan on charges of inciting violence against supporters of his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. He denies the accusation, claiming that he was in the custody of the National Accountability Office in a corruption case when the fighting broke out.
Khan was conciliatory in his appearance before an anti-terrorism court in Lahore, capital of Punjab province. The judge granted him protection from detention in three terrorism cases until early June.
“Yes, I condemn it”, Khan told reporters at the Lahore court, referring to the bombings. “There is no Pakistani who does not condemn violence.”
After Khan’s release last week and his return to Lahore, police surrounded his home, claiming that he was harboring 30 to 40 suspects linked to the violence at his luxurious Zaman Park residence.
The police, who have some 300 agents fanned out around Khan’s compound, he threatened to raid the premises unless the suspects turned themselves in. The confrontation was resolved with an agreement for the police to search the house. Khan’s party claimed that police did not find any suspects there.
Hours later, Khan declared to the press at his home that he would cooperate with the police in the arrest of the people linked to the attacks on military installations. But he showed no sign of backing down from his efforts to force elections and return to power.
“We will win the next elections even without launching any campaign,” he declared, stating that his party continued to enjoy massive popular support.
Since last week they have been celebrated throughout the country small concentrations in solidarity with the military, denouncing attacks by Khan’s supporters.
Police separately announced that they had detained six other suspects in Khan’s neighborhood, allegedly as they tried to flee. Eight others had previously been detained in the area, and a total of more than 4,500 suspects throughout the country.
Khan, a former cricket star turned Islamist politician, was ousted last year after a vote of no confidence in Parliament. He has claimed that his removal was illegal and a Western conspiracy, charges denied by his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
Khan remains very popular with his supporters – although two of his lawmakers and several politicians have left his party over the recent violence – and has campaigned against Sharif’s government, demanding early elections.
His campaign, his arrest and the ensuing violence have exacerbated Pakistan’s political turmoil and economic crisis.where the authorities are also facing an increase in attacks by militants.
On Friday, Sirajul Haq, head of the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party, narrowly escaped a suicide bombing in Zhob district of the troubled southwestern province of Balochistan, police said. The terrorist detonated the explosives he had strapped to his waist as Haq was entering Zhob in a convoy of cars.
Haq’s party said he was safe, but five people had been injured in the attack.
There was no immediate claim to the attack, but militants and other armed groups have carried out attacks in Pakistan’s Balochistan region for decades.
(With information from AP)
Tension in Pakistan: the deadline for Imran Khan to hand over the suspects expired, and the police maintain the siege on his house
Protests erupted in Pakistan after the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan