Zaman Park clashes: LHC directs police to stop operation till today

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD (Agencies): The Lahore High Court (LHC) Wednesday directed police to stop its operation in Lahore’s Zaman Park till today morning as the law enforcers tried to arrest Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, but seemingly failed to do so despite the passage of nearly 24 hours.
The police had started already retreating from the PTI chief’s residence before the LHC’s orders in light of the Pakistan Super League — which has shifted to Punjab’s capital for the playoffs stage. “Police will not advance on Khan’s residence until the ongoing Pakistan Super League (PSL) 8 cricket match is over,” sources quoted police officials as saying, shortly after which [olice and other security officials were seen leaving Zaman Park.
Shortly after the LHC’s orders, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) told Khan to move the trial court and provide the lower court with an undertaking that he will present himself on a specific date — meaning that his arrest warrants in the Toshakhana case are still valid. After the withdrawal of the police, the PTI chief came out of his residence, in a mask, and met the workers, a video shared on PTI’s official account showed.
Earlier, following the police’s failure in arresting the PTI chairman, a large number of Punjab Rangers arrived at the former prime minister’s Zaman Park residence to implement court orders. As per the private TV channel, the police and rangers reached the residence of the PTI leader at Zaman Park. The development came after police fired teargas in the area to disperse the PTI workers. On the other hand, hospital sources told media that at least 54 cops and eight citizens have been injured in the clashes that have been ongoing since yesterday.
PTI supporters clashed repeatedly with police overnight while he remained holed up in his Zaman Park residence, defying attempts to arrest him. Meanwhile, the law enforcers also arrested the PTI workers. Police fought pitched battles with supporters of Khan’s PTI near his residence throughout the night, firing fusillades of teargas and dodging rocks thrown by angry crowds. The police action to implement court orders started on Tuesday when a heavy contingent surrounded the area, however, a charged crowd denied the law enforcers any opportunity to arrest their leader.
The IHC did not suspend the arrest warrants in the Toshakhana case and directed the PTI chief to move the trial court. IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq had reserved the verdict after hearing arguments on the plea fixed on an urgent basis. During the hearing earlier, Khan’s counsel Khawaja Haris told the court that they have challenged the March 13 order of a district and sessions court in Islamabad. The IHC had earlier suspended the arrest warrant issued by the trial court, he added.
He added that the court had directed the PTI chief to appear before the court on March 13 however he was unable to do so. “Where was he that day?” asked Justice Farooq. The lawyer responded that he was at his home, adding that they told the trial court that the complaint was not maintainable.
“The issue is not of a warrant being issued again. The court had directed him to appear on March 13 or the warrant will be restored,” the IHC CJ told the court. Harris then told the court that the complaint was registered incorrectly as the officer who filed the complaint did not have the authority to do so. “As per law, Election Commission can file a complaint,” said Haris. He added that the election commissioner or any other officer can be given the authority to file the complaint. “Legal requirements were not fulfilled in this regard. In such a situation, the process of issuing a warrant is also not valid,” the counsel argued.
“It was still necessary to appear in court,” observed IHC CJ. The lawyer then told the court that whatever was happening in Lahore was unfortunate, adding that Imran Khan was willing to give an undertaking and appear in court at the next hearing. “Respect and dignity of the courts is very important. It is very important for us that the law should be the same for all,” remarked the IHC CJ. He also asked what image of Pakistan was being portrayed. “We use to hear that this happened in tribal areas. What are we trying to show to the world that we will not implement the law?” said the IHC CJ.
“But where will they keep him [Imran Khan] for four days,” asked Haris. In the meanwhile, the advocate general of Islamabad told the court that if the PTI chief does not appear in court on March 18 then the charges won’t be farmed on Haris. He also asked if he would quit the legal profession if his client does not show up on March 18. “It is the first time that he has given an undertaking for anyone,” said the government lawyer. He added that the relief was to be given to the petitioner and his conduct was in front of everyone.
At this point, the additional attorney general interjected and said: “A similar undertaking was given earlier. Even at that time, the high court suspended the warrant, but then he did not appear.” He added that the execution of the court order was necessary. “Is whatever happening in Lahore correct?” the judge asked. Khan’s counsel responded that it was not right. Justice Farooq then remarked that a political party’s workers were attacking the police, adding that it was an attack on the state. “Policemen are performing their duties on behalf of the state,” said the IHC CJ. He also asked if anyone in the United Kingdom could touch a policeman’s uniform. The court then reserved the verdict.