Imran Khan greets supporters after police withdraw

 Pakistan’s main opposi­tion leader, Imran Khan, has greeted supporters outside his home, just hours after there were violent clashes as police tried to arrest him.

He addressed the crowd and took pictures with those gathered near his compound in the city of Lahore.

In one video, he can be seen wearing a gas mask. Police fired tear gas shells during clashes throughout the night. One official told the BBC that the arrest opera­tion had been paused.

Punjab Interim Information Minister, Amir Mir, said the court-ordered operation to detain Mr Khan was suspended on Wednesday to allow a cricket tour­nament to take place nearby, as the stand-off was causing major traffic disruption.

He said the operation would likely continue after the final of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) on March 19.

No international cricket was played in Pakistan for six years following an attack on the Sri Lanka team by gunmen in 2009. It also took years for international players to return, and the ongoing tournament involves a large securi­ty operation.

“We can’t afford to risk the security and safety of the PSL,” a senior police official told the Reuters news agency.

Officers and paramilitary rang­ers were seen leaving the Zaman Park suburb where the house is located, with some reported­ly abandoning roadblocks and checkpoints.

Mr Khan then appeared outside and spoke to his supporters. “The police and rangers sent to harm Imran Khan were pushed back by the people,” his PTI party Twitter account posted.

The 70-year-old, who was oust­ed as prime minister last April, is facing allegations he sold state gifts while in office. He says the case is politically motivated.

On Tuesday, officers in riot gear fired tear gas shells and water cannon to disperse hundreds of angry supporters of Mr Khan at the compound. Some of the crowd threw stones and bricks.

Police then tried to force their way into the compound to arrest Mr Khan for failing to appear in an Islamabad court.

He has said he did not appear because of security concerns as two militant attacks had previously taken place there. The politician has offered to sign a guarantee that he will appear in court on Saturday. —BBC/Reuters

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