Zaman Park clashes: LHC directs police to stop operation till today

IHC orders Imran to move trial court for suspension of warrants; PTI chief comes out of safety of his room to buck up party workers

Ahmed Faraz
Awais Yousafzai
Azam Malik

Former prime minister Imran Khan stands with people in Zaman Park in Lahore, Pakistan March 15, 2023, in this picture obtained from social media. — Reuters
Former prime minister Imran Khan stands with people in Zaman Park in Lahore, Pakistan March 15, 2023, in this picture obtained from social media. — Reuters

  • IHC orders Imran to move trial court for suspension of warrants.
  • PTI chief comes out of safety of his room to buck up party workers.
  • Police unable to arrest PTI chief even after nearly 24 hours.

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: The Lahore High Court (LHC) Wednesday directed police to stop its operation in Lahore's Zaman Park till Thursday (today) morning as the law enforcers tried to arrest Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, but seemingly failed to do so despite the passage of nearly 24 hours.

The police had started already retreating from the PTI chief's residence before the LHC's orders in light of the Pakistan Super League — which has shifted to Punjab's capital for the playoffs stage.

"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 [olice and other security officials were seen leaving Zaman Park. 

Shortly after the LHC's orders, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) told Khan to move the trial court and provide the lower court with an undertaking that he will present himself on a specific date — meaning that his arrest warrants in the Toshakhana case are still valid.

After the withdrawal of the police, the PTI chief came out of his residence, in a mask, and met the workers, a video shared on PTI's official account showed.

Earlier today, following the police’s failure in arresting the PTI chairman, a large number of Punjab Rangers arrived at the former prime minister’s Zaman Park residence to implement court orders.

As per Geo News, the police and rangers reached the residence of the PTI leader at Zaman Park. The development came after police fired teargas in the area to disperse the PTI workers.

On the other hand, hospital sources told Geo News that at least 54 cops and eight citizens have been injured in the clashes that have been ongoing since yesterday. 

PTI supporters clashed repeatedly with police overnight while he remained holed up in his Zaman Park residence, defying attempts to arrest him. Meanwhile, the law enforcers also arrested the PTI workers.

Police fought pitched battles with supporters of Khan's PTI near his residence throughout the night, firing fusillades of teargas and dodging rocks thrown by angry crowds.

The police action to implement court orders started on Tuesday when a heavy contingent surrounded the area, however, a charged crowd denied the law enforcers any opportunity to arrest their leader. 

Police unarmed, claims minister

Meanwhile, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said the police personnel at Zaman Park are “unarmed”, adding that the PTI chief wants civil war in the country.

“Government has no link with Imran Khan’s arrest,” said the minister.

She reminded that the PTI chief during his tenure jailed all his political opponents, adding that Imran Khan was giving the impression that the government was behind his arrest.

“Court issued an arrest warrant,” said the minister, adding that the PTI chief was using women and children as shields.

“This person is a convict and the court has summoned him,” said the minister.

Warrants still active  

The IHC did not suspend the arrest warrants in the Toshakhana case and directed the PTI chief to move the trial court.

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq had reserved the verdict after hearing arguments on the plea fixed on an urgent basis.

During the hearing earlier, Khan’s counsel Khawaja Haris told the court that they have challenged the March 13 order of a district and sessions court in Islamabad. The IHC had earlier suspended the arrest warrant issued by the trial court, he added.

He added that the court had directed the PTI chief to appear before the court on March 13 however he was unable to do so.

“Where was he that day?” asked Justice Farooq.

The lawyer responded that he was at his home, adding that they told the trial court that the complaint was not maintainable.

“The issue is not of a warrant being issued again. The court had directed him to appear on March 13 or the warrant will be restored,” the IHC CJ told the court.

Harris then told the court that the complaint was registered incorrectly as the officer who filed the complaint did not have the authority to do so.

“As per law, Election Commission can file a complaint,” said Haris. He added that the election commissioner or any other officer can be given the authority to file the complaint.

“Legal requirements were not fulfilled in this regard. In such a situation, the process of issuing a warrant is also not valid,” the counsel argued.

“It was still necessary to appear in court,” observed IHC CJ.

The lawyer then told the court that whatever was happening in Lahore was unfortunate, adding that Imran Khan was willing to give an undertaking and appear in court at the next hearing.

“Respect and dignity of the courts is very important. It is very important for us that the law should be the same for all,” remarked the IHC CJ. He also asked what image of Pakistan was being portrayed.

“We use to hear that this happened in tribal areas. What are we trying to show to the world that we will not implement the law?” said the IHC CJ.

“But where will they keep him [Imran Khan] for four days,” asked Haris.

In the meanwhile, the advocate general of Islamabad told the court that if the PTI chief does not appear in court on March 18 then the charges won’t be farmed on Haris. He also asked if he would quit the legal profession if his client does not show up on March 18.

“It is the first time that he has given an undertaking for anyone,” said the government lawyer. He added that the relief was to be given to the petitioner and his conduct was in front of everyone.

At this point, the additional attorney general interjected and said: “A similar undertaking was given earlier. Even at that time, the high court suspended the warrant, but then he did not appear.” He added that the execution of the court order was necessary.

“Is whatever happening in Lahore correct?” the judge asked.

Khan’s counsel responded that it was not right.

Justice Farooq then remarked that a political party’s workers were attacking the police, adding that it was an attack on the state.

“Policemen are performing their duties on behalf of the state,” said the IHC CJ. He also asked if anyone in the United Kingdom could touch a policeman’s uniform.

The court then reserved the verdict.

‘Real intent is to abduct and assassinate’

Taking to Twitter, the former prime minister shared a picture of the teargas shells allegedly used during the crackdown on his home. 

"Latest attack by Rangers, pitting the largest pol party against the army. This is what PDM and the enemies of Pakistan want. No lessons learnt from the East Pakistan tragedy," said the PTI chief. 

Earlier, after the deployment of Rangers, the PTI chairman, in a series of tweets, claimed that the “real intent is to abduct and assassinate him” as the police have “now resorted to live firing”.

“My question to the Establishment, to those who claim they are ‘neutral’: Is this your idea of neutrality, Rangers directly confronting unarmed protestors and leadership of the largest political party when their leader is facing an illegal warrant and case already in court and when govt of crooks trying to abduct and possibly murder him?”

‘London plan’

Khan in a video shared on PTI’s Twitter account shortly before dawn, sitting in front of Pakistan and the party flags at a desk decorated with spent teargas canisters.

"I am telling the entire nation today that they are ready once again, they're going to come again," he said.

"They will teargas our people and do other such things, but you should know that they have no justification to do so."

"The way the police attack our people... there is no precedent for this," Khan said.

"Water canons, teargas... they shelled inside the house where there were servants and women."

The PTI chief claimed that he was not appearing at the F-8 Katcheri as terrorists had targeted the facility twice.

“They know I did not appear because of security, now they are preparing again,” said the PTI chief.

The former prime minister also claimed that in order to “avoid anarchy”, he had signed an undertaking and his counsel Ishtiaq A Khan tried presenting the surety to the Islamabad police deputy inspector general (DIG) sent to arrest him.

“And as per code of criminal procedure’s section 76 if a surety bond is given to arresting officer then he cannot make the arrest,” said the PTI chief. 

He further claimed that after this there was no reason for the police to arrest him. However, the PTI chief alleged that the DIG refused to take the bond on purpose as his arrest was part of the “London plan”.

“In the London plan, it has been decided to put Imran Khan in jail, defeat PTI, and finish all cases of Nawaz Sharif. Putting me in jail is part of the London plan. This has no relation with the law and I have not committed any crime,” said the PTI chief.