LAHORE: A high drama continued at the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s Zaman Park residence for hours on Sunday after the Islamabad Police arrived there for his arrest in the Toshakhana case and he successfully evaded his capture.
Later, Imran came down hard on the state institutions while addressing the party workers and supporters, who had participated in his Jail Bharo Tehreek. Interestingly, Imran Khan’s chief of staff Senator Shibli Faraz had claimed earlier that the PTI chief was not present at his Zaman Park residence. The deposed prime minister — who was ousted from power in April last year — vented his rage while addressing the party workers and supporters. In a fiery speech, the PTI chairman said that he had neither knelt before any institution or person nor would let the nation do so.
In the hard-hitting speech, Imran Khan said there was no issue if the government places his name on the Exit Control List as he had no intention of leaving the country.
Taking a dig at the leadership of ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance, the PTI leader said that their legs start shaking if their “names are put on the no-fly list”.
Berating the former army chief, Khan alleged that Gen (retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa imposed a group of criminals on the country through a conspiracy.
Addressing his party workers and supporters, Khan said that he was no security risk, adding that “they” wanted to ‘remove’ (assassinate) him from the path. The deposed prime minister said that he was being dragged into the courts in fake cases.
PTI senior leader Advocate Babar Awan, on March 3, had claimed there was strong evidence to suggest that a plan was being hatched by foreign agencies to launch another assassination attempt on PTI chairman.
Khan claimed that his life was in danger and demanded that he should be allowed to attend the hearing of Toshakhana case via video link.
Khan maintained that his lawyers would write a letter to Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial in this regard. Talking to the media at the Zaman Park, an Islamabad Police official said that they were in Lahore on the court’s order due to Khan’s persistent absence from the court.
The official said that they had arrived at Zaman Park under the leadership of a superintendent of police (SP).
“We are being assisted by the Lahore Police,” said the Islamabad Police official, who spoke to the media.
The Islamabad IGP, while talking to Geo News, said that officers were at Zaman Park to arrest the PTI leader. “I appeal to the people not to hinder the police in implementing the orders of the court. Doing so would be a crime,” warned the Islamabad Police chief.
Meanwhile, the Islamabad Police in its tweet said that they would transfer Khan to Islamabad under their protection. “Legal action will be taken against those who try to obstruct the execution of court orders,” they said.
The police said that Khan was avoiding arrest, adding that SP Hussain Tahir went to the former premier’s room but could not find him there.
Moreover, all the roads leading to Zaman Park have been closed and barriers have been placed outside Khan’s house. As per the reports, the people present inside Khan’s residence are not opening the doors.
When the police arrived, Shibli Faraz received the warrant for the PTI chief’s arrest. Faraz informed the police that the former prime minister was not at Zaman Park but would comply with the law.
Later, while talking to Geo News, SP Tahir said that the police had the arrest warrant. “However, when we went inside, we were told that Khan wasn’t inside,” he added. Tahir said that Khan’s chief of staff was present inside, adding that they were trying to locate the PTI chief.
“We were assured that Imran Khan will appear before the court on March 7,” he said, adding that they have to implement the court orders.
As the news of the arrest broke, PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry called on workers to gather in Zaman Park. Following this, a large number of party workers arrived at the Lahore residence of PTI chief.
“Any attempt to arrest Imran Khan will seriously worsen the situation. I want to warn this incompetent and anti-Pakistan government not to push Pakistan into further crisis and act sensibly,” said Fawad in a tweet.
Later, Fawad and other senior PTI leaders, including Yasmin Rashid, Asad Umar, Ejaz Chaudhry and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, arrived at Khan’s residence in Lahore.
Later, speaking to media persons, Fawad said that about 74 cases are registered against Khan of which 30 were criminal cases. “It is not possible for a human to appear in court in such a large number of cases,” he added.
Berating the government, the PTI senior vice president said that it has destroyed the Constitution and economy. “The government wants to disrupt the law and order situation in the country. It wants riots to erupt, so that the elections could be suspended. It is an attempt to prevent the implementation of the order issued by the Supreme Court regarding the elections,” he said.
Fawad also alleged that the government was insisting Khan appear before the court in a bid to kill him. “Both federal and Punjab governments are different sides of the same coin,” he added. The PTI leader called the workers to start preparing for protest in case Khan was arrested. “If anything happens, we give a call for peaceful nationwide protests,” he added.
Meanwhile, Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that they will consult their lawyers on the notice sent to Imran Khan and announce the next strategy. Qureshi said the party chief has always respected the law and courts and even appeared before the court without security.
“Even doctors did not permit Imran yet he appeared. We will follow the legal process but we need to be cautious,” he said while speaking to journalists after Fawad.
The senior leader said that the party will announce its next plan after a meeting with Khan. He claimed that the PTI chairman’s life is under serious threat and remains the party’s main concern as another attempt may be carried out.
“We have prepared a plan to keep Imran safe. In yesterday’s address, everyone saw that Imran was talking in a conciliatory tone and said he is forgiving everyone, including those who have made attempt on his life.”
Qureshi said that Khan had announced that he was ready for a political discussion, adding that those who were attempting to arrest the former premier “are trying to derail the conciliatory process.”
“If [the government] wants to bring the country back on track and wants to improve the economic and law and order situation, then it needs to revisit its decisions,” said the former foreign minister.
“Pakistan is facing a number of security and economic challenges. Imran has shown maturity. He said that the country’s interest is bigger than his own. If people are mature enough, we are here to play a role of a bridge without compromising on our basic principles,” Qureshi said. He added that they respect courts but they were not appearing due to security concerns.
Later, Fawad told the media that the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has already provided protective bail to Khan till March 9. The PTI leader asked the workers not to take the law into their own hands and maintain the law and order situation. He said that the only reason to arrest Imran Khan was to cause bloodshed and disrupt the law and order situation in Pakistan. He also said that the Islamabad IGP and Rana Sanaullah wanted a clash to take place here. “The protest will be within limits of the law,” he added.
Meanwhile, PTI leader Hammad Azhar appealed to the party workers to remain calm at this time. He also warned Sanaullah not to even think about “causing any bloodshed”. He asked all workers to reach Zaman Park for the support of PTI chief.
On the other hand, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, while talking to the media in Faisalabad, said the police had arrived at Zaman Park to implement the court order. He said the court will be informed about whatever happened at the Zaman Park. “If the arrest was to happen, then the [PTI] workers would not have been able to stop it,” Sanaullah said, adding that the former prime minister could have been arrested three days ago.
He said that Khan’s allegations of an attempt on life were fundamentally wrong. “There was no case of assassination bid on Imran Khan, who has been finding ways to avoid appearing before the courts and punishment,” the minister said.
On Sunday evening, a petition for protective bail of Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case could not be filed in the Lahore High Court (LHC). The PTI leaders approached the court after the Islamabad Police visited the Zaman Park for the arrest of Imran Khan. However, the petition could not be filed due to weekly off-day at the court.
Later, the PTI leaders and lawyers left the LHC premises.
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