March 15, 2023
ISLAMABAD – A tense situation prevailed in Lahore in the early hours of Wednesday as more contingents were called to PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s Zaman Park residence — where a stand-off between party supporters and law enforcers has been going on for more than 14 hours — for the former prime minister’s arrest.
Amid calls from the party to yet again gather at Zaman Park, Imran addressed his supporters around 4:20am and said more attempts to arrest him were underway.
Speaking in a video message, Imran likened the day’s events to the situation in Illegally Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
“The way police attacked our people, there is no example of this. What is the reason for attacking a small number of people like this?”
Imran said to prevent any chaos, he had given an undertaking to the LHCBA president who then attempted to forward it to the DIG who was coming to arrest the PTI chief but the latter did not meet the president.
“According to Code of Criminal Procedure Section 76, if this surety bond is given to the arresting officer, then he can’t arrest,” Imran said.
The PTI chief said that the DIG had no reason to not accept the undertaking and pointed to ill-intentions. “This is part of the London plan and an agreement has been signed there to put Imran in jail, make the PTI fall and finish all cases against Nawaz Sharif,” Imran alleged.
He, however, stopped short of making any announcement.
Intermittent tear gas shelling was ongoing early Wednesday morning at Zaman Park with more police and Rangers personnel and vehicles deployed. At 3:36am, PTI’s social media focal person Azhar Mashwani claimed that shelling had begun again on Mall Road and Dharampura.
He alleged that “unknown persons” were supervising the operation while Lahore Capital City Police Officer Bilal Siddique Kamyana and Deputy Inspector General of Police Haider Ashraf were leading the operation on the ground.
Meanwhile, PTI leader Musarrat Cheema alleged that Zaman Park’s power was cut and there was now a blackout. She further said that police forces were stationed on the roads leading to Imran’s residence.
Earlier, police which was previously camped out at a security barrier outside the neighbourhood had been forced to retreat towards Mall Road. PTI workers, meanwhile, have laid siege to the path leading to Imran’s residence as well as Canal Road.
With police seeking Imran’s arrest, protests broken out in Islamabad, Peshawar, Karachi, Rawalpindi and other cities after the PTI chief called on his supporters to “come out” following police’s use of tear gas and water cannons on supporters outside Zaman Park.
- Imran, PTI calls on supporters to “come out” in solidarity, says “mentally prepared” for arrest
- Protests against arrest begin in major cities
- Islamabad DIG injured; tear gas shells fall inside Zaman Park as police and PTI supporters face off
- Islamabad police says 5 officials injured as stones pelted from roof of Imran’s home
- IHC fixes PTI’s plea against arrest warrants for tomorrow
- Maryam Nawaz says Imran to be held responsible if any police officer or personnel is injured
Protests in major cities
In Karachi, PTI workers protested at 4K Chowrangi, 5 Star Chowrangi, Banaras Chowk, Al-Asif Square, Shaheen Chowk, Mirza Adam Khan Chowk, and Murghi Khana.
Videos shared by the PTI’s Karachi chapter also showed workers gathered at Qayyumabad Chowrangi, II Chundrigar, Hassan Square and Sohrab Goth.
The PTI claimed that Sindh police fired tear gas shells at its workers and supporters at Hassan Square to disperse the crowd.
Footage shared by the party showed party workers running away amid the sound of gunfire.
In Peshawar, a large number of PTI supporters demonstrated outside the press club. Workers also blocked Sher shah Suri road and marched towards the Governor House.
Islamabad police said that PTI protesters had blocked Tarnol Road but timely action had been taken to reopen it for traffic. “A case has been registered in Tarnol Police Station against the PTI workers who blocked the road on the orders of Imran Khan,” police said.
In Rawalpindi, protesters marched to Committee Chowk and also gathered at Liaquat Bagh but were later dispersed by police officials.
A spokesperson for Rawalpindi police said workers at Liaqat Bagh pelted stones at officials after which police baton-charged them.
PTI issues renewed call for supporters to reach Zaman Park
Late on Tuesday night, the PTI issued a renewed call for supporters to reach Zaman Park immediately.
PTI KP President Pervez Khattak said he was on his way to Zaman Park and called on the party’s officeholders in the province to head towards Lahore as well.
PTI’s social media focalperson Azhar Mashwani alleged that there were once again plans for a “major assault” on Zaman Park with the help of police contingents from Kasur and Sheikhupura and the help of “unknown persons”.
Imran tells supporters to ‘come out’, says ‘mentally prepared’ for arrest
In a video message on Twitter, Imran said police had arrived at Zaman Park to arrest him. “They think that after I am arrested, the nation will fall asleep. You have to prove them wrong,” he said.
The PTI chairman said everyone should come out of their homes for their rights and “haqeeqi azaadi” (true freedom).
“If something happens to me and I am sent to jail or if I am killed, you have to prove that you will struggle without Imran Khan and not accept the slavery of these thieves and of the one person who has been making decisions for the country,” said the former premier, who has continued his confrontational rhetoric against the establishment since his ouster in April last year.
In an interview with Sky News and Al Jazeera later in the evening, Imran said that he was “mentally prepared” for his arrest. “There is a huge [police] force outside — not just the police but they’ve got the Rangers there too which is the army. It seems as if Pakistan’s biggest terrorist is holed up inside,” he added.
He alleged that the government wanted him out of the election race since it was “petrified” of his party’s popularity. “According to all opinion polls, we will sweep the upcoming polls and that is why they want me removed from the scene.”
In another interview with BBC World, Imran said there was a “lull” in the operation, claiming that the police was bringing in reinforcements.
“I’m mentally prepared that I’m going to be spending the night in a cell … I’m all prepared for that. I think they’re determined this time they really want me behind bars,” he added.
PTI’s Fawad Chaudhry also asked PTI supporters to gather in the streets in a show of solidarity with Imran.
He said the chief justice should take suo motu notice of the entire situation and “stop the police operation”.
PTI leader Hammad Azhar said there were “thousands” of PTI loyalists outside Zaman Park, whom he described as “emotional, charged … and angry”.
“Police is using disproportionate force over a warrant issued in a frivolous and false case. Half of Lahore is in a state of curfew. The regime’s decision-making is driven by panic,” he tweeted.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, however, said that officials would arrest Imran in accordance with the court’s directives and produce him in court.
President Dr Arif Alvi said he was “deeply saddened” by today’s events. “Unhealthy revenge politics. Poor priorities of [a] government of a country that should focus on economic misery of the people,” he said.
“ Are we destroying political landscape? Am concerned about safety and dignity of @ImranKhanPTI like that of all politicians,“ he said.
Police, PTI workers clash
Shortly after 2pm, armoured police vehicles had arrived outside Zaman Park with the intention of arresting Imran but a senior Islamabad police official, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) (Operations) Shahzad Bukhari, had refrained from commenting on the case in which officials were acting against the PTI chairman.
While police did not comment an Islamabad district and sessions court on Monday had again issued arrest warrants for Imran after he persistently skipped hearings in the Toshakhana case. The court had also directed police to present the ex-premier in court by March 18.
Almost an hour after police arrived outside Zaman Park, police used a water cannon and tear gas against PTI supporters that had gathered outside Zaman Park in droves.
Footage broadcast on television showed police inching toward the residence behind an armoured vehicle that was dispersing PTI supporters with a water cannon. Supporters could also be seen pelting stones at the policemen.
Footage also showed PTI supporters being teargassed once police arrived close to the main gate of Zaman Park. The workers, who had covered their faces with pieces of cloth and were carrying bottles of water, continued to pelt stones at officials.
The PTI also shared a video of tear gas shells being lobbed inside Zaman Park.
Amid the chaos, Islamabad DIG (Operations) Bukhari — who was leading the police team — was injured. Footage aired on TV showed the senior police official struggling to walk as two other officials helped him.
Later, the Islamabad police provided an update on the DIG, saying that he was doing well.
As the sun set, a Dawn.com correspondent present at the scene said a heavy contingent of Rangers had been deployed outside Zaman Park. He also said that a helicopter was circling above Zaman Park but it was not immediately clear if it was part of the law enforcers’ contingent.
The PTI also shared footage of its workers, some with pieces of cloth covering their face, still gathered outside Zaman Park. Some of the workers were also carrying sticks.
The Islamabad police said that five of its officials, including the DIG (Operations) had been injured after stones were pelted from the roof of Zaman Park. “Despite the pelting of stones, police refrained from taking extreme measures,” Islamabad police said on Twitter.
It added that SP Rana Hussain had taken charge of the operation in place of DIG (Operations) Bukhari.
Police to make arrests, register cases if ‘hooliganism persists’: IGP
A little after midnight, Punjab IGP Dr Usman Anwar recapped the day’s events, saying a Punjab police force of 300 personnel, along with Islamabad police officials, had gone to Zaman Park for implementing a court order.
He told Geo News that the police contingent tried to negotiate with the PTI but instead pelted with stones. “As a result of intense pelting, the DIG was injured … and till now 27 of our officers have been injured,” he added.
Anwar said the protesters even hurled petrol bombs at the police. He, however, clarified that there was “no operation” currently under way.
To a question about arresting Imran tonight, he said it was the duty of the police to implement the court’s order.
“If this hooliganism and rowdiness continues then the police will make arrests and register cases according to the law,” he warned.
Late into the night, Imran met Lahore High Court Bar Association President Chaudhry Ishtiaq Ahmad Khan and gave him an undertaking that the PTI chief would appear in court on March 18.
“He (Ishtiaq) will provide this undertaking to the relevant officers,” the PTI said.
PTI’s plea against arrest warrants fixed for tomorrow
Separately, the PTI challenged Imran’s arrest warrants in the Toshakhana case in the Islamabad High Court (IHC). The party had filed the petition shortly after police and PTI workers had come face to face outside Zaman Park.
IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq fixed the hearing for tomorrow (Wednesday) while rejecting the party’s request to conduct the hearing today.
The development was confirmed by the PTI chairman’s lawyer Ali Bukhari. “The plea has been fixed for hearing tomorrow (March 15) despite the objections raised” by the registrar’s office, he said.
Fawad said that the plea challenging the arrest warrant had been fixed for tomorrow. He said that the arrest warrant against Imran was dated March 18, therefore, police should call off its operation and wait for the court’s verdict.
Qureshi tells police to come and talk to him
Speaking to the media outside Zaman Park after the police’s use of force, PTI’s Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that he had come to talk to the Islamabad DIG (Operations).
“He says he came with an arrest warrant [but] I’m requesting him to not ruin the situation,” he said, adding that the PTI wanted to remain peaceful and did not want bloodshed.
“Meet me and talk to me. What are your orders? Deliver them to me, show me the warrant, I’ll read it and understand it and talk to my chairman and consult our lawyers.”
He said that the police action against PTI workers was “without reason” and called for it to stop immediately.
Qureshi said that Imran had been granted protective bail and questioned how police could want to arrest him.
The PTI leader said that Imran was not present inside, in contrast to his statement to the media minutes earlier in which he said the ex-premier was in fact at Zaman Park. Imran’s sister Aleema Khanum had also told the media that Imran was present at his residence.
“Imran Khan is not present inside. I’m standing on the street. Come and meet me,” Qureshi said, adding that he was the “authorised” person.
‘Police to serve lawful process’
Speaking to the media as armoured vehicles had arrived outside Zaman Park around 2pm, Islamabad Deputy Inspector General (DIG) (Operations) Shahzad Bukhari — who was clad in riot control gear — told reporters that officials had arrived to take the PTI chief into custody as there were outstanding warrants for his arrest.
However, the police official declined to divulge the details of the case in which Islamabad police was acting against Imran. “Of course, we know of the case but why should we discuss [such] details?”
When asked where Imran would be taken once he was arrested, Bukhari said: “Let it first happen, then God willing we will keep you informed.”
He asserted that police had arrived to “serve the lawful process”, adding that he expected that others would cooperate with the officials in this regard.
He said that he expected the people not to take the law into their own hands and would also announce it to the public gathered outside Imran’s residence.
When asked whether police would take action if the situation descended into chaos, he said: “Yes of course, if someone takes the law into their hands then we will act in accordance with the law.”
Bukhari was also asked whether the capital’s police force had been camped out in Lahore for the past week, to which he replied that these were their own “procedural details”.
PTI jumps to Imran’s defence
Meanwhile, PTI’s Farrukh Habib shared footage of officials outside Zaman Park. He said that Imran’s life was in danger yet situations were being created behind the scenes so that another attempt on the ex-premier’s life could be carried out.
“Appearing before a court in F-8 is no less than a death trap,” he said.
PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry, in an apparent reference to the coalition government, said the entire group had looted the Toshakhana yet police were only seeking Imran’s arrest.
PML-N Senior Vice President Maryam Nawaz Sharif said Imran would be held responsible if any police officer or personnel was injured.
“The sons of the nation are not useless,” she said in a tweet. “They are carrying out their duty”.
More to follow
Additional reporting by Umer Burney, Imtiaz Ali, Sirajuddin