Police have surrounded the home of former Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan, claiming he was sheltering dozens of people allegedly involved in violent protests against his recent detention.
The police deployment on Wednesday could anger Khan’s many followers and raised concerns about more clashes between his supporters 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.”
In a live video statement on Wednesday, Khan said his opponents were out to trigger a fight between him and the army.
“I’m afraid that this will bring a big backlash that will cause huge loss to our country,” he said. “If someone thinks that this strategy can win a ban on my party, it is not going to happen.”
He demanded a judicial commission headed by the chief justice to probe the violence.
A wave of violence had engulfed Pakistan’s capital and other urban areas following Khan’s dramatic arrest from court on May 10. Khan supporters set fire to 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.
Shazia Marri, Pakistani federal minister for poverty, alleviation and social safety, told Al Jazeera that Khan’s video message was “inciting” his supporters to violence.
“Law was being taken into their hands,” Marri said, referring to Khan’s supporters. “They were attacking buildings, they were burning down ambulances.”
“It was a situation where the administration had to take some necessary measures just to ensure that peace is sort of back on the streets,” she added.
Earlier on Wednesday, Amir Mir, a spokesman for the Punjab provincial government, said Khan had 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.
Khan’s aide, Iftikhar Durrani, denied the former prime minister was sheltering people suspected of involvement in the violence.
Pakistani authorities have said they would prosecute civilians involved in recent anti-government protests in military courts. The army chief, General Asim Munir, said in a speech to troops on Wednesday that “recently planned and orchestrated tragic incidents will never be allowed again at any cost.”
Rights group Amnesty International and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said they were alarmed by the government’s plan.
The Supreme Court later ordered Khan’s release and criticised 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 removed 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 corruption case along with his wife.
In a speech on 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.