Pakistan riot police on Tuesday used water cannon and tear gas to push back supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan who have gathered outside his house to prevent officers from arresting him.
Khan was ousted from office by a no confidence vote last year, and has been snarled in a series of legal cases as he campaigns for early elections and his return to office.
It is the second time in recent weeks that police have been despatched from the capital Islamabad to Khan’s home in the eastern city of Lahore to serve an arrest warrant after he skipped several court dates linked to a corruption case citing security concerns.
“We are here basically to execute the warrants and to arrest him,” Syed Shahzad Nadeem Bukhari, deputy inspector general of Islamabad police, told reporters outside Khan’s residence in Lahore.
Officers were met by at least 200 Khan supporters, some wielding sticks and hurling stones, draped in the red and green flags of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
Police fired a water cannon and tear gas on the crowds as they attempted to clear a path to Khan’s house, holding signs plastered with the arrest warrant for the 70-year-old opposition leader.
From inside the house, Khan recorded a video message which he released on Twitter.
“Police have arrived here to put me in prison,” he said. “They believe the nation will go into slumber when Imran Khan goes to jail.”
PTI deputy leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters in Lahore that “we want to be peaceful”.
Qureshi insisted police should deliver the arrest warrant to him and said he would “try to find a solution to avoid bloodshed”.
Khan has been summoned to court to answer accusations he did not declare gifts received during his time as prime minister, or the profit made from selling them.
The first attempt officers made to detain the onetime cricket superstar was thwarted because he was “reluctant to surrender”, police said, without offering further details.
Khan has been pressuring the coalition government which replaced him, led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, with popular rallies and daily addresses.
Last year he was shot in the leg at a demonstration, an assassination bid he blamed on Sharif.
As the political melodrama unfolds ahead of an election due no later than October, Pakistan is in the grip of a stark economic downturn, risking default if help cannot be secured from the International Monetary Fund.
The security situation is also deteriorating with a spate of deadly attacks on police headquarters, linked to the Pakistan Taliban.