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Thursday March 23, 2023

Zaman Park operation: GB force used against Punjab police, says minister

PTI supporters celebrate; IHC asks Imran Khan to move lower court

By News Desk
March 16, 2023
A policeman stands near a burning vehicle during clashes between supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan and riot police near Khans house to prevent officers from arresting him, in Lahore on March 15, 2023. — AFP
A policeman stands near a burning vehicle during clashes between supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan and riot police near Khan's house to prevent officers from arresting him, in Lahore on March 15, 2023. — AFP

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb Wednesday claimed that the Gilgit-Baltistan force was used to resist the Punjab Police operation to arrest the PTI Chairman Imran Khan from his Zaman Park residence.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Marriyum distanced the federal government from Imran Khan’s arrest, saying if the government had to arrest him, it had the state power used by Imran for four years for jailing his political opponents.

She said Imran Khan was giving the impression that the government wanted to arrest him to kill him but he was summoned by the court, local media reports.

The federal minister claimed that the police carried no weapons and they were just implementing the court orders.

“Over 65 Rangers and police injured personnel have been admitted to hospitals”, she added.

“A cowardly person, a foreign agent, a Toshakhana thief, Tyrian’s father, a criminal of contempt of court is on the run from the police,” the minister thundered.

She said, “This person is trying to give the impression that he is disabled and elderly, his leg is plastered and his life is in danger.”

She said Imran had the habit of telling lies and had been claiming that he was ready for agitation but at the same time he was sick for appearance in the courts.

Terming Imran a hypocrite and cowardly person, she said the liar wanted anarchy and civil war in Pakistan. Imran desired chaos in Pakistan and was misleading the people by blaming the government for his arrest order.

“This person is hiding using children and women as a shield,” she said, adding, “This person is using a human bunker and is trying to give the impression that the government is arresting him.”

“The people of Pakistan should know that Imran Khan was wanted in foreign funding, Tyrian, Toshakhana, Judge Zeba, and contempt of court cases,” she maintained.

The minister said the court issued an arrest warrant for Imran Khan and directed the police to produce him in the court.

“Imran Khan should know that his political obituary has been written, as no leader ever tried to take shelter behind women and children.”

She said so far 65 police personnel had been injured while executing the court orders.

Taking a jibe at Imran Khan, she said the person who called himself “Bahadur Khan” was hiding under the bed today, though he had challenged the United States.

“PTI is not a political party but a group of terrorists. The media should also tell the real facts of this marathon to the people,” Marriyum added.

Following the information minister’s claim, the federal government removed IGP Gilgit-Baltistan Muhammad Saeed Wazir and ordered the removal of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) police from the Zaman Park.

Wazir was removed after allegations emerged that the GB Police, instead of facilitating Khan’s arrest, protected the PTI chief when law enforcers came to apprehend him in line with court orders in the Toshakhana case.

A notification issued by the Establishment Division confirmed Wazir’s removal and directed the now-former IGP to report to the division.

Another notification from the division said Dar Ali Khattak, a Grade 20 police officer from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), had been appointed in Wazir’s place.

Shortly after Marriyum’s statement, spokesperson for the GB Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid termed the allegations ‘baseless’ and noted that the territory’s force was on security of the chief executive.

Ali Taj regretted the ‘fabricated allegations’ against the GB police, lambasting the information minister for ‘spreading lies’. “The PDM government is shaking the foundations of the Centre for political revenge,” he added.

Ali Taj further castigated the government for the ‘oppression’ at Zaman Park, alleging that attempts were being carried out to assassinate Imran Khan under the guise of arrest.

The chief minister spokesperson vowed that they will foil the PDM government’s plot to assassinate Imran Khan.

Meanwhile, the Lahore High Court (LHC) Wednesday directed the police to call off their operation at the Zaman Park till 10am on Thursday (today) as they tried to arrest the PTI Chairman Imran Khan but failed despite passage of almost 24 hours.

Hearing a petition filed by the PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry seeking the court’s instruction to stop the police to stop what he called ‘atrocities’ outside the Zaman Park, Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh passed these orders.

The police started retreating from the PTI chief’s residence before the LHC’s orders in light of the Pakistan Super League that has shifted to Lahore for the playoffs stage.

“The 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 the police and other security officials were seen leaving Zaman Park.

Earlier, the LHC had summoned IGP Punjab Usman Anwar, chief secretary and Islamabad Police (operations) in person by 3pm.

As the court took up Fawad Chaudhry’s petition, Imran’s counsel pleaded that what happened outside the Zaman Park constituted a violation of fundamental rights.

Advocate General Punjab Shaun Gill took the stance that since the matter was pending with the Islamabad High Court (IHC), Fawad’s plea could not be heard in the LHC.

Justice Sheikh inquired about the Islamabad Police official who was heading the operation to arrest Imran in Lahore and summoned him to court.

Here, the government’s lawyer said that advocate general Islamabad represented the capital police.

“We have to fix this matter somehow,” the court remarked and warned that the court would issue arrest warrant for the Islamabad Police official if he didn’t appear in the court.

The court also summoned IGP Punjab and the provincial chief secretary.

When the officials appeared in the LHC, the government’s lawyer said the Islamabad Police official couldn’t appear in the court, adding that the IHC had reserved its verdict on a PTI plea seeking cancellation of Imran’s arrest warrants.

The court then asked IGP Punjab about the solution to the situation to which the latter replied that he was in a meeting with the Election Commission of Pakistan when the Islamabad Police arrived in Lahore.

“The Islamabad Police asked us for assistance and showed the arrest warrant. At first, our 14 officers were injured after which 300 more officials were deployed,” IGP Anwar said. He said 59 more cops were injured in clashes between the PTI supporters and police.

“We have decided none of the officials will use any weapons during the operation. We controlled the situation with the help of water cannons and tear gas,” IGP Punjab told the court. He further said that the PTI supporters hurled stones at police vans, threw petrol bombs at officers and state machinery was set on fire.

He further said Rangers were called in after this and only people who attacked the police were arrested.

PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the court that his party believed in the rule of law. He said the police had promised a ceasefire but then they started shelling inside Imran Khan’s house. “In my opinion, the police want a tragedy.” Justice Sheikh remarked, “They [the PTI] have filed a plea with the IHC against the arrest warrant. Until a decision comes, we can halt the police operation.

“I want peace in Lahore,” he added.