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Tuesday April 23, 2024

Zaman Park turns into battleground for Imran’s arrest

Heavy police contingent surrounds PTI chairman’s residence in Lahore

By Arshad Dogar & Faizan Bangash & Salman Aslam
March 15, 2023
Supporters (foreground) of former prime minister Imran Khan and riot police scuffle outside Khan´s house to prevent officers from arresting him, in Lahore on March 14, 2023. —AFP
Supporters (foreground) of former prime minister Imran Khan and riot police scuffle outside Khan´s house to prevent officers from arresting him, in Lahore on March 14, 2023. —AFP

LAHORE: Heavy police force led by the city’s chief cop reached Zaman Park in the early hours of Wednesday after Islamabad police failed to arrest PTI chief Imran Khan amid fierce clashes between the PTI workers and the anti-riot force in and around the party chief’s residence that left dozens of activists and police personnel injured.

When a team of Islamabad police arrived at Zaman Park to arrest Imran Khan, PTI workers got enraged. They threw stones at the police officers, who retaliated in kind. Islamabad DIG Shahzad Bukhari was injured when PTI workers began throwing stones at police officers. Prison vans were dispatched to transport the arrested PTI workers. The police jumped over the walls and took complete control of Zaman Park. Internet service has been suspended in the vicinity. To disperse the PTI workers, police used water cannons and tear gas shells. The police also baton-charged them. The police had set up barricades to prevent the PTI workers from approaching The Mall.

When the protesters attempted to remove the barricades, a fight broke out between police and the agitators. Following that, the police used water cannons, tear-gas shells, and batons. Though the protesters claimed that 11 workers were injured and hospitalised as a result of police action, the police said that breaking down barricades and attacking officers were serious offences. The police used all of their force to push back the workers. Water cannons and tear gas shells, according to the police, were used to disperse the agitators. Air surveillance was used by police to keep an eye on the situation. Zaman Park was also visited by the CCPO and the DIG Operations. Rangers were also present at Zaman Park and other sensitive installations to maintain law and order. The PTI workers began hurling petrol bombs at police officers, causing a water cannon to catch fire. The PTI activists later gathered at Liberty Chowk to register their protest. Police shelling and clashes on Canal Road continued at intervals until the publication of this report.

The PTI workers continued to gather on various roads to protest the impending arrest of PTI Chairman Imran Khan. During the clashes, PTI leader Zartaj Gul was also injured. Meanwhile, police changed their strategy and waited until it was dark to launch an aggressive operation. All of the lights in the area of Canal and Mall roads were turned off. It was learnt that a large police force and a baton-carrying force were present. The traffic situation on major roads remained worse, particularly on The Mall, Canal Road, Jail Road, Allama Iqbal Road, and Main Boulevard in Gulberg. City Traffic Police were unable to divert traffic onto alternate routes because the traffic load had increased significantly. Workers from the Pakistan Tehreek Insaf also closed the Jail Road Bridge on Canal Road from both sides. Shadman Square and Fowara Chowk traffic were diverted. Later, the protesters also blocked the Babu Sabu interchange, causing a traffic jam for hours.

At least 30 personnel received multiple injuries during the clash. Rescue 1122 provided first aid to cops while seriously injured cops were shifted to hospitals.

Meanwhile, police arrested at least 15 activists of PTI and shifted them to unknown locations. The protest continued at 6 points including Canal Road, Jail Road Pul, Babu Sabu, Liberty Market, Dharampura and Davis Chowk till the filing of this report which created traffic congestion.

Earlier, the government imposed Section 144 in the provincial capital as the Islamabad police reached Zaman Park to arrest PTI Chairman Imran Khan under court orders. Paramilitary troops have also been deployed at Zaman Park to maintain law and order.

Meanwhile, Imran Khan urged the nation to continue their struggle to save the country even if he was jailed or assassinated. In a video message from Zaman Park, he said police contingents were all out to arrest him. Imran said the forces which wanted to arrest him perceived that the nation would not rise if he was arrested.

He urged the countrymen to prove these forces wrong and show they were living nations and followers of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). “Allah has blessed me with everything. I am fighting your war. If they put me in jail or kill me, don’t stop, just continue the struggle,” said Imran. Meanwhile, in a tweet Fawad Chaudhry Tuesday appealed to the judiciary to take suo motu notice of the Zaman Park situation.

A large number of PTI supporters had gathered at Zaman Park to protect Imran Khan. Senior leaders of PTI were also present there. Sources said a senior PTI leader also tried to mediate between Imran and the police but the workers opposed it.