On Wednesday, skirmishes that had started after police attempted to detain former prime minister Imran Khan for failing to appear in court in the Toshakhana case came to a halt as law enforcement withdrew from the area surrounding Imran Khan’s Zaman Park residence in Lahore.
After further attempts were made earlier today to arrest the party leader, law enforcement officers were spotted leaving the Lahore neighborhood after fighting with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporters.
It was unclear right away whether the security forces had stopped the operation to arrest Imran that had been mandated by the court. The PTI chairman was seen standing in front of his house after police left, talking to supporters while donning a gas mask.
Following the withdrawal, PTI supporters could be seen jubilantly cheering the “success” and chanting Imran’s name.
Imran’s arrest warrants upheld by IHC
Imran Khan’s non-bailable arrest warrant has been reaffirmed by the Islamabad High Court, and the PTI chairman has been instructed to show the undertaking before the trial court in the Toshakhana case on Thursday (tomorrow).
Imran Khan’s request for the revocation of his warrant was rejected by Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court Justice Amir Farooq, who also delivered the reserved order.
The court instructed Imran Khan to file a petition in this matter before the trial court and to include the high court undertaking in the petition.
LHC halts Zaman Park operation
Prior to the Islamabad High Court’s judgement on the non-bailable arrest warrant for Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case, Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh of the Lahore High Court had ordered the police to halt the Zaman Park operation.
Various petitions were being heard by Justice Sheikh, including ones asking for a safe route for petitioner Imran Khan to travel to the LHC in order to obtain protective bail in several FIRs and to stop the “atrocities” police officials were committing against him, his political party and its leadership, as well as the general public.
Zaman Park turned into war zone
After law enforcement stepped up their operation in the almost 24-hour-long standoff, police resumed using tear gas and water cannons against stubborn PTI workers and supporters as new fights broke out in the morning.
A large number of PTI supporters were detained.
Read More: Pakistan police use water cannon in attempt to arrest Imran Khan
DIG Operations Lahore Afzal Kausar and CCPO Lahore Bilal Siddique Kamyana were also present to lead the operation. The Punjab Rangers were aiding the police with a sizable contingent while dressed in riot gear.
Tuesday evening, the provincial government requested three companies of Punjab Rangers to supplement the police force.
According to the official PTI Twitter account, the Rangers and police had started open fire as “extreme attack” was being launched on Imran’s home.
The party claimed that “tyrants” were “once again going to the extremes of brutality” in videos that displayed “bullet marks” on the gates of Zaman Park.
Also, there are Rangers stationed at Mall Road close to the former premier’s Zaman Park home, preventing access to the area. Torched items include a traffic warden post and a few automobiles.
Lawyers are also marching toward Zaman Park at the same time.
Mobile and internet connectivity has been cut off in the Zaman Park neighborhood and surrounding areas. While an emergency has been declared at hospitals, educational institutions around Mall Road are still closed.
Intent to assassinate Khan?
Imran Khan claimed that the “arrest claim was mere drama because [the] real intent is to abduct and assassinate”.
He continued by saying that the police had “resorted to live shooting” after using tear gas and water cannons.
“I signed a surety bond last evening, but the DIG refused to even entertain it. There is no doubt of their mala fide intent”.
The PTI leader claimed there were “Rangers taking over” and in “direct confrontation with the people” in a series of tweets.
He questioned whether this was how the organization “who claimed to be neutral” defined neutrality.
“Rangers directly confronting unarmed protestors and leadership of the largest political party when their leader is facing an illegal warrant and case already in court and when [a] government of crooks [is] trying to abduct and possibly murder him?”
Govt removes G-B police chief
After claims that a Gilgit Baltistan (G-B) “force” was used to attack Punjab police officers at the former prime minister Imran Khan’s residence in Lahore’s Zaman Park, the federal government removed Inspector General (IG) G-B Mohammad Saeed Wazir from his position.
A notification states that Dar Ali Khattak, a Grade 20 police officer from the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, has been appointed as the new Inspector General of the Gilgit-Baltistan Police, and that Muhammad Saeed has been ordered to report to the Establishment Division.
Read More: Several wounded in clashes as Pakistan police try to arrest ex-PM Khan
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad today, Fazl referred to Imran Khan as a “coward” who has not only used his party workers as a shield but also made them stand against the state. “The state must establish its writ and ensure Imran’s arrest for the crimes he committed during his tenure as prime minister,” he added.
Fazl said that many political leaders were arrested during the tenure of Imran Khan’s government which even failed to prove a single allegation in a court of law.
“Imran Khan should show some courage and face the law,” the JUI chief said, adding that Imran was hell-bent on spreading chaos and anarchy in the country to achieve his ulterior motives.
Attempts to arrest Imran Khan
A group of Islamabad police officers under the command of DIG (Operations) Islamabad Shahzad Bukhari attempted to execute the non-bailable arrest warrants of Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case, which is what sparked the confrontation.
As the police were forced to retire along Mall Road from the PTI chief’s home, the situation worsened and they nearly approached the gates of the residence.
The police action at Zaman Park sparked protests that spread from city to city. In an outburst of rage, buildings were set on fire, and the authorities reacted violently, injuring at least five policemen, including DIG Operations Islamabad Shahzad Bukhari, and inflicting injuries on dozens of workers.
The unrest was on show on a short way from Imran’s home, where he had earlier in the day called for his supporters to congregate and asked them to come out in response to police using tear gas and water cannons on supporters.
When tensions rose due to an upsurge in protests in Islamabad, Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore, and Rawalpindi, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in the capital.
Even though officials had blocked access to Imran’s home, key arteries leading there became jammed just hours after police started the process of arresting the former premier.
With arrest warrants for Imran, a team of Islamabad police officers arrived at the home in the afternoon. They were accompanied by a sizable group of Lahore police officers.
The federal capital police were being escorted by a sizable number of Anti-Riot Force (ARF) officers who were armed with tear gas shells, anti-riot gear, and two water cannons. Before continuing to Imran’s house, the team made statements pleading with the staff not to hinder their execution of duty.
Imran asked his supporters to show up for true freedom in a brief video message as police prepared to arrest him. “They think that after my arrest, the nation will fall asleep but you have to prove them wrong,” Khan said.
The area’s electricity supply was also cut off, and internet access was also interrupted as the skirmishes intensified. A helicopter was also called in and kept busy doing aerial surveillance of the environs.