LAHORE: Protests broke out in major cities on Tuesday at the call of PTI Chairman Imran Khan as police and party workers continued to clash outside his Zaman Park residence in Lahore.
Intermittent tear gas shelling is ongoing at Zaman Park as police is currently camped out at a security barrier outside the neighbourhood. PTI workers, meanwhile, have laid siege to the path leading to Imran’s residence as well as Canal Road. 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. 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. 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.
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”.
Protests have broken out in Islamabad, Peshawar and Karachi after Imran called on his supporters to “come out” following police’s use of tear gas and water cannons on supporters outside Zaman Park. 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. 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. Videos shared by the PTI’s Karachi chapter also showed workers gathered at Qayyumabad Chowrangi, II Chundrigar, Hassan Square and Sohrab Goth.
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 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.
Imran forms ‘emergency body’ to overlook PTI matters
LAHORE: Former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan has constituted a six-member ‘emergency committee’ to overlook party matters in case of arrest.
The six-member committee – constituted to overlook party matters – included PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Senator Saifullah Niazi, Senator Azam Swati, Ijaz Chaudhy, Murad Saeed and Ali Amin Gandapur. The emergency committee will overlook the matters if Imran Khan gets arrested, as per a statement issued by the political party. It is pertinent to mention here that the Islamabad police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse PTI workers gathered outside party chief Imran Khan’s Zaman Park residence in Lahore.
In a video message shared on Twitter, PTI Chairman Imran Khan has urged the party workers and supporters to continue struggle for ‘real freedom’ as the police reached Zaman Park to arrest the former prime minister. The PTI chief urged the nation to stand resolute and fight for ‘Haqeeqi Azadi (real freedom) and rule of law’. Imran Khan noted that the government believes the nation will ‘not react’ if he gets arrested, urging the party workers and supporters to prove the incumbent rulers ‘wrong’.