Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan, gestures as he speaks to the members of the media at his residence in Lahore
Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan, gestures as he speaks to the members of the media at his residence in Lahore, Pakistan May 18, 2023. Reuters

Police in Pakistan plan to search the Lahore home of former prime minister Imran Khan on Friday, a provincial official said, a step that could trigger more violence amid political and economic instability in the South Asian nation.

Hundreds of policemen, led by the district commissioner, will perform the search after receiving a warrant to do so, said Amir Mir, the information minister of the sprawling province of Punjab.

"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.

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, Iftikhr Durrani, allowed journalists into some areas of the Lahore home to "look for terrorists".