LAHORE, Pakistan – Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday (May 19) refused police permission to search his Lahore home for suspects involved in this month’s attacks on state and army buildings and laid out his own terms for any such operation.
Khan has denied sheltering anyone involved in the violence and said a search could only be conducted by a panel set up by a high court, with members form both the government and his party – and on the condition that a female officer accompanies them.
He said he feared police, unsupervised, could plant weapons.
Amir Mir, information minister of the province of Punjab, of which Lahore is the capital, earlier told Reuters that police would only start a search after agreeing on conditions with Khan.
The standoff is the latest in a tussle between former cricket star Khan, 70, and the powerful military that has deepened political instability in the South Asian nation of 220 million.
Pakistan also faces its worst economic crisis in decades, with critical IMF funding needed to avert a balance of payment crisis delayed for months.
Khan’s home is in the Zaman Park neighbourhood of Lahore and was the site of pitched battles in March between his supporters and police who had tried to arrest Khan for not showing up in court.
Khan was eventually on May 9 on graft charges, which he denies, and released on bail that expires this month.
His arrest triggered a wave of violence by supporters who attacked government buildings, public properties and military installations, including its headquarters and the house of a military commander in Lahore.
Mir said there were no plans to rearrest Khan.
Lahore police chief Bilal Kamyana said police had arrested 14 suspects involved in the attack on the commander’s house as they tried to escape Zaman Park.
A government statement said the team handed over all the evidence about the suspects to the administration of Zaman Park. It said a list of 2,200 suspects involved in the violence was also handed over to Khan.
Analysts said a search of Khan’s house could trigger further unrest.
On Thursday, Khan’s aide, Iftikhr Durrani, allowed journalists into some areas of the home to “look for terrorists”.
Mir said they were given very limited access and could not account for the whole property.
Khan said he was worried what police would do if allowed to search his home without a court order.
“We fear that they will do what they did earlier – they stormed my home in my absence and said that they found weapons.”