Police in Pakistan stormed the home of former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan in Lahore on Saturday and arrested 61 people amid tear gas shelling after someone opened fire from the roof of the building, officials said.
Senior officer Suhail Sukhera said police moved to remove encroachments and a blockade erected by Mr Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party and his defiant supporters in an upscale neighbourhood.
He said baton-wielding supporters of Mr Khan attempted to resist police by throwing stones and petrol bombs. A man on the roof of the house opened fire, but no one was hurt.
Mr Sukhera said police broke open the main door of Mr Khan’s residence and found masks, petrol-filled bottles, iron rods and batons used in attacks on police during the week.
He said that inside the sprawling residence, illegal structures were erected to shelter those who have been involved in attacks on police that have injured dozens of officers.
Witnesses said police attempted to disperse supporters of Mr Khan by firing tear gas and chasing them to several homes in the Zaman Park neighbourhood.
Mr Khan was not at home, having travelled to Islamabad to appear before a judge to face charges that he sold state gifts while in office and hid his assets. Mr Khan says he followed legal procedures in acquiring the gifts. The judge postponed that hearing until March 30.
Mr Khan had been holed up at his home in Lahore since Tuesday after failing to appear at an earlier hearing in the case. His supporters hurled stones and clashed with baton-wielding police for two days to protect the former premier from arrest.
Mr Khan is facing legal challenges, including one that prompted a failed attempt to arrest him on Tuesday.
Hours earlier at his home in Lahore, the former cricket star told Reuters he had formed a committee to lead his party if he is arrested.
He has led nationwide protests after he was removed from power last year and has had a spate of cases registered against him.
Earlier this week, police and Mr Khan's supporters clashed outside his home earlier during the arrest attempt.
Mr Khan, who was shot and wounded while campaigning in November, said in an interview the threat to his life is greater than before and asserted, without providing evidence, that his political opponents and the military want to block him from standing in elections later this year.
The military and government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Security was tight around the judicial complex where Mr Khan, 70, arrived in a motorcade surrounded by supporters.
The court has previously issued arrest warrants for Khan in the case as he had failed to appear on previous hearings despite summons.
On his assurance that he would appear on Saturday, the court granted Khan protection against arrest, but he said he feared the police and government planned to take him into custody.
Mr Khan wrote on Twitter on Saturday that he believed the Pakistan Democratic Movement coalition government “intends to arrest” him.
“It is also obvious now that the entire siege of Lahore was not about ensuring I appear before the court in a case but was intended to take me away to prison so that I am unable to lead our election campaign,” he said.
Pakistan's Information Minister said this week the government had nothing to do with the police action and the police were complying with court orders.
The case being heard on Saturday pertains to charges that Mr Khan sold luxury watches and other items given to the state during his 2018 to 2022 term as prime minister.