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Pakistani police surround Imran Khan’s home, claim former leader is hiding suspects in recent riots

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Police surrounded the home of former Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday, claiming he was sheltering dozens of people allegedly involved in violent protests over his recent detention.

The police deployment was likely to anger Khan’s many followers and raised concerns about more clashes between them and the security forces. Last week, Khan supporters had attacked public property and military installations after he was dragged out of a courtroom and detained.

The popular opposition leader was released over the weekend and returned to his home in an upscale 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 appeared on the scene.

“Probably my last tweet before my next arrest,” Khan tweeted. “ 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 allegedly hiding at his home or face a police raid. Mir told a news conference that so far 3,400 suspects have been arrested and that more raids are planned.

Pakistani authorities have said they would prosecute civilians involved in recent anti-government protests in military courts. The army chief, Gen. Asim Munir, said in a speech to troops Wednesday that “recently planned and orchestrated tragic incidents will never be allowed again at any cost.”

The advocacy group Amnesty International and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said they were alarmed by the government’s plan.

Dinushika Dissanayake, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for South Asia, said that trying civilians in military courts is contrary to international law.

Military trials in Pakistan are usually held behind closed doors, depriving civilians of some of their basic rights, including contracting a lawyer of their choice.

A wave of violence had engulfed Pakistan’s capital and other urban areas following Khan’s dramatic arrest from a courtroom. Khan supporters torched 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 later ordered Khan’s release and criticized the way he was arrested.

On Wednesday, a top court in Islamabad extended Khan’s bail and protection from arrest until the end of the month. However, his legal team fears he might be arrested in old cases.

Khan, 70, was ousted by a non-confidence vote in parliament last year. He is currently facing more than 100 cases, mainly on charges of inciting people to violence, threatening officials, and defying a ban on rallies. He also faces a graft case along with his wife.

In recent days, the government of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has accused Khan of sheltering suspects linked to last week’s attacks.

Khan, meanwhile, alleged some of his supporters were being tortured in police custody and demanded the immediate release of female detainees. He offered no evidence to back those claims.

Graphic novels are displayed for sale at a bookstore in New York City on Sunday, October 8, 2023. On Tuesday, the Commerce Department releases U.S. retail sales data for September. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)
Graphic novels are displayed for sale at a bookstore in New York City on Sunday, October 8, 2023. On Tuesday, the Commerce Department releases U.S. retail sales data for September. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

In a speech Wednesday, Khan said he never encouraged his supporters to engage in violence. He claimed the attacks on military installations were orchestrated by unknown elements — part of a purported conspiracy to pitch his party against the military, but did not provide evidence.

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Associated Press writer Babar Dogar contributed to this story from Lahore, Pakistan.

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