A five-member team led by Lahore’s commissioner arrived in PTI chief Imran Khan’s Lahore residence, Zaman Park, on Friday to carry out a search after warrants were issued earlier in the day. A search will be conducted by the police after terms are agreed.
Aaj News reported that the team met Imran Khan’s lawyers before meeting the PTI chief himself. However, Punjab Information minister Amir Mir said that the team would only decide SOPs for the search.
PTI’s Twitter account also confirmed that the commissioner was inside the house and the premises being searched.
“They are being satisfied in the presence of a large number of media (representatives),” the tweet said.
A district magistrate court had granted a warrant to the Punjab government to search the residence on suspicions of holding up terrorists.
Lahore Commissioner Muhammad Ali Randhawa would meet the nominated persons of PTI to convince them before the government team arrives. When they will agree, the government would begin a search operation.
The Punjab police continued to surround Zaman Park on the third consecutive day on Friday.
A heavy contingent of police was deployed at Sundar Das Road, Mall Road Underpass, and Dharampura Underpass. According to updates by noon, traffic around Zaman Park was suspended.
The road from Mall Road to Dharampura and the underpass were closed. But traffic was open from Dharampura to Mall Road, the underpass, and Sundar Das Road.
Hundreds of policemen, led by the district commissioner, will perform the search after receiving a warrant to do so, said Amir Mir, the interim information minister of the sprawling province, told Reuters 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 added.
He was referring to supporters of Khan accused of attacking and vandalising government and military buildings, but ruled out the arrest of Khan.
“We don’t have any plans to arrest Imran Khan.”
Police would search only if Khan permitted them to do, he added, but if not, they would withdraw until the government chalked out the next steps.
Although Khan has already agreed to allow police access to his home, government officials say they want his permission for a search in order to avoid violence by his supporters.
Khan’s home is in the Zaman Park neighbourhood of Lahore, the state capital. It was the site of pitched battles in March between his supporters and police who had tried to arrest the 70-year-old former cricket star for not showing up in court.
Eventually arrested on May 9 on graft charges, which he denies, Khan was later released on bail that expires this month.
His arrest triggered a wave of violence by supporters who attacked military installations and other government buildings.
The clashes came as the South Asian nation of 220 million faces its worst 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 it blamed for the attacks on the powerful army and who it said were hiding in his home.
Khan has denied sheltering anyone involved in the violence, saying the authorities could search his home but only with legal warrants from a court.
On Thursday, Khan’s aide, Iftikhar Durrani, allowed journalists into some areas of the Lahore home to “look for terrorists”.
(With input from Reuters)