Security personnel stand guard after Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan arrived to appear before the Lahore anti-terrorism court in Lahore on May 19, 2023. (Photo by ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)
Pakistani police and government officials arrived at the Lahore home of former prime minister Imran Khan on Friday (19) to discuss a possible search for suspects involved in this month’s attacks on state and army buildings, authorities said.
Police would only start the search after agreeing on terms and conditions, Amir Mir, information minister of the province of Punjab, of which Lahore is the capital, said.
The talks at the home of the cricket star and Pakistan’s most popular leader, according to polls, is the latest in a tussle between Khan and the country’s 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.
“We have information that there are around 40 terrorists hiding there, so I think we will need some 400 police to search the house,” Mir said.
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 the 70-year-old for not showing up in court.
Khan was eventually arrested 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 military installations and other government buildings.
Mir said there were no plans to rearrest Khan.
Analysts said a new search could trigger further unrest. TV footage showed government officials and police entering the home with scores of cameras on their backs.
On Wednesday (17), the Punjab government asked Khan to hand over supporters it blamed for the attacks.
Khan has denied sheltering anyone involved in the violence, saying the authorities could search his home but only with court warrants.
On Thursday (18), 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 sprawling property.