Following violent clashes between police and supporters of Imran Khan outside his residence on Tuesday (March 14), the former Pakistan Prime Minister, asked them to “come out” to fight for real freedom and continue the struggle even if he is killed or arrested.
Supporters of Khan had gathered in thousands outside his Lahore residence to prevent his arrest by police in a corruption case. Several protesters and police were injured during the clash with Lahore police resorting to the use of water cannons and tear gas to deal with the agitators.
Also read: Imran Khan jumped wall, hid in neighbour’s house to escape arrest, says Pakistan minister
“The way we were targeted by the police, it is a first. There is no reason why they have taken this step. My bail for on the 18th. They knew why I was not attending the bail…because of security,” Khan said in a video message that was released by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on social media as police arrived at his Zaman Park residence to arrest him in the Toshakhana case.
In the video Khan said the court Lahore High Court rejection of his undertaking to appear on March 18 was a conspiracy against him.
“Why was it not taken? Because London is a part of the plan. Nawaz Sharif has been given assurance that me and my party will be attacked and pulled down,” Khan said condemning the attack on his supporters by police.
اپنی قوم کے لئے میرا پیغام!pic.twitter.com/Dv3i9X0S1J
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) March 14, 2023
“Police have come to arrest and send me to jail. If something happens to me, or sent to jail, or they kill me, you’re to prove that this nation will continue to struggle even without Imran Khan and not accept the slavery of these thieves and of the one person who has been making decisions for the country,” he said.
In a tweet, Khan called attempts by Islamabad police to arrest him in Toshakhana case “mere drama” as he claimed that the “real intent is to abduct & assassinate”. “From tear gas & water cannons, they have now resorted to live firing. I signed a surety bond last evening, but the DIG refused to even entertain it. There is no doubt of their mala fide intent,” Khan further claimed in a tweet sharing a video in which supporters of the former prime minister are showing bullets.
Clearly "arrest" claim was mere drama because real intent is to abduct & assassinate. From tear gas & water cannons, they have now resorted to live firing. I signed a surety bond last evening, but the DIG refused to even entertain it. There is no doubt of their mala fide intent. pic.twitter.com/5LZtZE8Ies
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) March 15, 2023
Despite an over eight-hour-long police operation outside the Zaman Park Lahore residence of Khan, the police could not arrest him due to strong resistance from PTI workers. Scores of PTI workers and policemen suffered injuries in the violent clashes. So far, no casualty has been reported.
Police fired fusillades of teargas dodging rocks thrown by angry supporters of Imran Khan who issued a video shortly before dawn, in which he said, “I am telling the entire nation today that they are ready once again, they’re going to come again. They will teargas our people and do other such things, but you should know that they have no justification to do so.”
Videos shared widely on social media showed several injured supporters of Imran Khan while PTI’s account showed video of teargas canisters landing inside Imran Khan’s garden.
After our workers & ldrship faced police onslaught since yesterday morning of tear gas, cannons with chemical water, rubber bullets & live bullets this morning; we now have Rangers taking over & are now in direct confrontation with the people. My question to the Establishment,
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) March 15, 2023
Police have arrested a number of PTI workers though. The PTI workers in huge numbers are braving massive shelling. Zaman Park turned out to be a battleground.
Lahore Police chief Bilal Saddique Kamayan said that Lahore police are assisting the Islamabad police in the arrest of Khan. “We will make sure that the court’s arrest warrants are executed,” he said. Three police vans were present outside Khan’s residence. Police fired tear gas and used water cannons to disperse Khan’s supporters, who reportedly hurled stones at policemen, resulting in injuries.
Also read: Imran Khan stable, recovering; vows to continue protest march to Islamabad
In the video message, 70-year-old Khan said: “They (the government) think that after my arrest, the nation will fall asleep. You have to prove them wrong”. “God has given me everything, and I am fighting this battle for you. I have been fighting this battle all my life, and I will continue to do so,” he said.
Protests break out across Pakistan
Soon after his speech, protests broke out in Islamabad, Peshawar, Karachi, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Vehari, Peshawar, Quetta, and Mianwali. Protesters blocked several roads in different cities of Punjab. In Lahore, PTI workers blocked several roads to protest the police action. PTI workers have staged a sit-in there and demanded the end of police action against Khan.
A senior police officer of Islamabad police said that his team has come to Lahore to arrest the PTI chief in the Toshakhana case. Khan has been in the crosshairs for buying gifts, including an expensive Graff wristwatch he had received as the premier at a discounted price from the state depository called Toshakhana and selling them for profit.
TV footage showed police slowly approaching the Zaman Park residence of Khan behind an armoured vehicle that was dispersing his supporters with a water cannon. Khan’s supporters, who had covered their faces with pieces of cloth, pelted stones at policemen. The Islamabad police said that five of its officials, including Deputy Inspector General (Operations) Shahzad Bukhari, who was leading the police team, had been injured after stones were pelted from the roof of Zaman Park.
“Despite the pelting of stones, police refrained from taking extreme measures,” Islamabad police said on Twitter. PTI leader Shireen Mazari shared a video in which tear gas could be seen entering Khan’s residence. “They’re shelling Imran Khan’s house too,” a leader who requested everyone to stay peaceful and patient.
“Intermittent tear gas shelling is ongoing at Zaman Park as police are currently camped out at a security barrier outside the neighbourhood,” Dawn newspaper reported.
Khan’s supporters refuse to yield
Khan’s supporters, however, have laid siege to the path leading to his residence. PTI’s deputy leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi earlier said that the party leadership is ready to find out a “possible way out” to avert bloodshed. “Show me the warrant. I will first read and understand it. Then, I will speak to Imran Khan and my lawyers,” he told the police.
Khan’s party moved the Islamabad High Court against the arrest warrants issued in the Toshakhana case. Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Aamer Farooq fixed the hearing for Wednesday while rejecting the party’s request to conduct the hearing on Wednesday. Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, however, said that officials would arrest Khan in accordance with the courts directives and produce him in court.
Unhealthy revenge politics: President
President Arif Alvi has said that he was “deeply saddened” by Tuesday’s events. “Unhealthy revenge politics. Poor priorities of [a] government of a country that should focus on economic misery of the people, he said. “Are we destroying the political landscape? Am concerned about safety and dignity of @ImranKhanPTI like that of all politicians,” he said.
The PTI has given a call on social media asking its workers to reach Zaman Park. Clashes between police and PTI workers also broke out at the points where the police placed barricades. The PTI has declared that it would not let law enforcement agencies arrest Khan as it fears he may be given poison in jail.
PTI senior leader Fawad Chaudhry told the media that Khan would not surrender to the police of Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah because “giving Mr Khan into the custody of criminal Rana Sanaullah amounts to endangering his (Khan) life.” Rana Sanaullah on the other hand insisted that police operation will continue till the arrest of Khan.
Also read: Pakistan’s EC disqualifies ex-PM Imran Khan for five years
“Police will arrest Imran Khan at any cost today,” he declared.
Earlier in the day, a large number of PTI workers equipped with clubs and sticks assembled outside Khan’s residence to resist the police action. The police blocked all roads leading to the house of the PTI chairman by placing containers and riot personnel took positions to launch the operation.
One activist of Khan’s party was killed on Wednesday during a crackdown on his supporters who gathered outside his residence in Lahore, defying a government ban on rallies in the city.
On Monday, the Lahore police booked Khan in a case related to the killing of the PTI worker – Ali Bilal alias Zille Shah – in a road accident. Earlier, the Lahore police had registered an FIR against Khan and 400 others for the murder of Shah. This is the 81st FIR against Khan since the PML-N-led federal coalition came into power 11 months ago after toppling his government through a no-confidence motion.
Khan on Monday (March 13) led a march of thousands of his supporters, a day after he called off his party’s election rally following a ban on public gatherings in Punjab’s provincial capital. The former cricketer-turned-politicians supporters threw rose petals at a convoy carrying him to the Data Darbar shrine.
Khan was ousted from power in April last year after losing a no-confidence vote, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China and Afghanistan. Since his ouster, Khan has been clamouring for immediate elections to oust what he termed an “imported government” led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Sharif has maintained that elections will be held later this year once the parliament completes its five-year tenure.
(With inputs from agencies)