LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) – Pakistani police plan to search the Lahore home of former Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday, a provincial government official said, an operation that could trigger more violence as the country grapples with political and economic instability.
Amir Mir, the information minister of Punjab province, said hundreds of policemen, led by the city police commissioner, would conduct the search operation later on Friday.
“We have information that there are around 40 terrorists hiding there, so I think we will need some 400 police to search the house,” he told Reuters. The reference was to supporters of Khan accused of attacking and vandalising government and military buildings.
Khan’s home is located in the Zaman Park neighbourhood of Lahore, the capital of Punjab.
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In March, the area was the site of pitched battles between this supporters and police who had tried to arrest the 70-year-old former cricket star for not showing up in court.
Khan was eventually arrested on May 9 on graft charges, which he denies, and was later set free on court-ordered bail that expires later this month.
His arrest triggered a wave of violence that saw supporters attacking military installations and other government buildings. The clashes came as the South Asian nation of 220 million faces its worst ever economic crisis, with critical IMF funding needed to avert a balance of payment crisis delayed for months.
On Wednesday, the Punjab government asked Khan to hand over supporters who it blamed for the attacks on the powerful army and who it says are hiding in his home.
Khan has denied sheltering anyone involved in the violence, and has said the authorities could search his home but only with legal warrants from a court.
On Thursday, Khan’s aide Iftikhr Durrani allowed journalists into some areas of Khan’s Lahore home to “look for terrorists”.
(Additional reporting by Asif Shahzad in Islamabad; Writing by Miral Fahmy; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)
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