Imran Khan comes down hard on ‘institutions’ amid arrest controversy

Ahmed Faraz
Azam Malik

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan addressing party workers at Zaman Park, Lahore on March 5, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — YouTube/Facebook/ImranKhan
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan addressing party workers at Zaman Park, Lahore on March 5, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — YouTube/Facebook/ImranKhan

  • PTI workers asked not to leave Zaman Park before 10pm tonight.
  • Jail Bharo Tehreek aimed at removing people’s fear, says Imran Khan.
  • Seeks permission to attend hearing of Toshakhana case virtually.

LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Sunday came down hard on the “state institutions” amid the arrest controversy in the Toshakhana case registered against him.

The deposed prime minister — who was ousted from power in April last year — vented his rage while addressing party workers and supporters at Zaman Park residence in Lahore who participated in the "Jail Bharo Tehreek" (court arrest movement). 

Interestingly, Khan's chief of staff Senator Shibli Faraz had claimed that the PTI chief was not at his Zaman Park residence. 

In his fiery speech, the PTI chairman said that he had neither kneeled before any institution or person nor would let the nation do so.

Khan's appearance came amid a swarm of PTI workers gathered at Zaman Park after the Islamabad police arrived at his Lahore residence to make his arrest for the Toshakhana case.

On February 28, additional sessions judge Zafar Iqbal of an Islamabad court issued the former prime minister's non-bailable arrest warrant for continuously failing to appear before the court in the Toshakhana case.

‘Place my name on no-fly list’

In the hard-hitting speech, Khan said no matter if the government places his name on the exit control list (ECL) as he has no intention of leaving the country.

Taking a dig at the leadership of the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance, he 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.

'They wanted to remove [assassinate] me'

Addressing his party workers and supporters, the former prime minister said that there is 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 suggesting that a plan was being hatched by foreign agencies to launch another assassination attempt on PTI chairman.

It should be noted that during the PTI long march, a gunman opened fire at the former prime minister in Wazirabad, Gujranwala district in November last year, injuring him in the legs. He went on to say: "The lawyers of Islamabad deem the Kachehri (Judicial Complex) as a death trap".

Khan claimed that his life was in danger and demanded that he should be allowed to attend the hearing of the 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.

Playing hide and seek

Talking to the media at 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 have arrived at Zaman Park under the leadership of Superintendent of Police (SP) Tahir Hussain .

"We are being assisted by the Lahore police," said the Islamabad police official who spoke to the media.

Islamabad IG while talking to Geo News said that the officers were at Zaman Park to arrest the PTI leader. 

"I appeal to the people not to hinder the police in implementing the orders from the court. Doing so would be a crime," warned the Islamabad police chief.

SP unable to find Imran Khan 

Meanwhile, the Islamabad police in its tweet said that they will 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 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. 

Imran Khan not present at Zaman Park

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. 

Police trying to locate Imran Khan 

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 there," he added.

Tahir said that Khan's chief of staff was present inside, adding that they are 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.

PTI leaders, workers gather at Zaman Park

As the news of the arrest broke, PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry called on workers to gather at Zaman Park. Following this, a large number of party workers arrived at the Lahore residence of the 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.

PTI asks workers to gear up for protests if Khan is arrested

Later, speaking to the media persons, Fawad said that about 74 cases are registered against Khan of which 30 are 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 the economy. 

"The government wants to disrupt the law and order situation in the country. It was the 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 is 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 is 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 with their lawyers regarding the notice sent to Imran Khan and announce the next strategy.

Qureshi said that 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 attempted on his life."

Qureshi said that Khan had announced that he was ready for a political discussion, adding that those who are 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 added.

He added that they respect courts but they were not appearing due to security concerns.

Fawad claims IHC has given bail to Khan 

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 to not take law into their own hands and maintain the law and order situation.

He said that the only reason to arrest Imran Khan is to cause bloodshed and disrupt the law and order situation in Pakistan. He also said that the Islamabad IG and Rana Sanaullah want a clash to take place here.

"The protest will be within the 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.

Maryam labels Khan a 'coward' 

Following the PTI chief's refusal to give arrest, PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz, while referring to her father Nawaz Sharif, said that even if the "lion is innocent, he holds his daughter's hand and comes to Pakistan from London to offer his arrest". 

"And if the jackal is a thief in fear of his arrest he uses other's daughters as a shield and hides," said Maryam and asked the PTI chief to come out. 

"The nation knows the difference between a leader and a jackal," said Maryam.

The PML-N leader also asked her father to "lend some bravery" to the PTI chief. 

'Khan would be arrested the day govt decides to do so'

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, while talking to the media in Faisalabad, said that the police had arrived at Zaman Park to implement the court's order. He said that the court will be informed about whatever happens at Zaman Park.

"If the arrest was to happen then the [PTI] workers will 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 such case of the assassination bid on Imran Khan. Imran Khan has been finding ways to avoid appearing before the courts and punishment," the minister said.