Pakistani security forces have started retreating from outside former prime minister Imran Khan's residence, prompting cheers and celebrations from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporters. Amid high drama on the streets of Lahore, the High Court stopped police operation at Zaman Park till 10 am on Thursday.
According to reports, the operation to arrest Khan, a former international cricketer, was halted temporarily to accommodate Pakistan Super League (PSL) which is being played at a stadium a few kilometres away from Khan's neighbourhood.
Soon after, Khan came out of his residence, donning a gas mask, and met the party workers. In a tweet, the party said that more workers were reaching Zaman Park and vowed not to let the "impure intentions" of the coalition government succeed.
The police personnel arrived at Khan's Zaman Park residence on Tuesday, but defiant supporters clashed with the policemen resulting in injuries on both sides. Police fired tear gas and used water cannons to disperse Khan's supporters, who reportedly hurled stones at policemen. On Wednesday, the authorities deployed the elite Rangers outside Khan's residence, a day after clashes with police left over 60 people injured, including 54 policemen. The injured were shifted to Lahore's hospitals and police arrested dozens of Khan's supporters.
The district and sessions court in Islamabad on February 28 issued non-bailable arrest orders against Khan in the Toshakhana case about the concealment of the proceeds from the sale of state gifts. An arrest warrant was issued after he skipped multiple summons.
In a video message on Tuesday, Khan called on PTI supporters to protect him and added that the "arrest" was a ploy to "assassinate" him. In the video message, 70-year-old Khan said: "They (the government) think that after my arrest, the nation will fall asleep. You have to prove them wrong.”
Khan was ousted from power in April last year after losing a no-confidence vote, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China and Afghanistan. Since his ouster, Khan has been asking for early elections to oust what he termed an "imported government" led by prime minister Shehbaz Sharif.