Saturday Mar 18, 2023
LAHORE: Police on Saturday allegedly recovered assault rifles and a cache of bullets from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan's Zaman Park mansion in a search operation, detaining over 60 party cohorts accused of resorting to hostilities to obstruct the law.
Hours after Khan hit the road to attend the Toshakhana case hearing in the capital on Saturday, Punjab Police barged into his residence.
The police and PTI supporters recently fought pitched battles outside the former prime minister's home in Lahore, wounding several on both sides when the former tried to arrest Khan.
However, a police operation was launched at Imran Khan's residence this morning to clear the area of 'security camps' established by the party.
Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Usman Anwar, in a press conference, said police had finished the search and cleanup operation in Zaman Park and took into custody AK-47 assault rifles and a large number of bullets from Imran Khan’s mansion in Lahore's posh neighbourhood.
Moreover, glass bottles, suspected to be used in making Molotov cocktails, and hundreds of marbles for being shot at police with slingshots were also collected from Khan’s house.
Later, he said five more Kalashnikovs were also found on Khan’s property. To a question, the IG said the legal status of the guns — whether they were licensed or not — was being evaluated.
He said before the operation, the roads around the park were blocked with shipping containers, "which now have been cleared ".
The police conducted the search operation with water cannons, contingents of fully-equipped riot police, lady police, and prisoner vans, the top Punjab cop said, adding that anti-encroachment personnel also accompanied the police along with heavy earthmoving machinery.
“The police broke the main gate with an excavator and entered Imran Khan's house,” the police official said, adding that a curtain had been placed on the broken gate.
Over 60 party workers were arrested from the PTI chairman’s house and moved to an undisclosed location for further investigation.
The top policeman alleged that his men came under direct fire from Khan’s house.
He said the police demolished several camps built outside Khan's residence, while anti-encroachment crews removed sandbags and other encroachments using heavy machinery.
“Azadi Container has also been taken away from Zaman Park,” IGP said.
To a question, he said, the search warrant was issued by the Administrative Judge of the Anti-Terrorism Court, whereas the search operation was launched under section 47 of the Criminal Code.
“During the search, there was a woman officer of inspector rank along with the investigating officer as per the court order,” he added.
Strongly reacting to the police action at the residence of his party chief in Zaman Park, PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry said that the sanctity of Chadar and Chardiwari (veil and four walls) was violated today.
Addressing a press conference, Fawad said that the “jackals” attacked his house when the lion was away at the court.
Earlier today, the police entered the Khan's eight-canal house after using an excavator to bring down the main iron gate of the house.
Referring to the agreement signed between the Punjab government and the PTI about a search operation in Zaman Park in connection with clashes that erupted on March 14 and 15, Fawad said it was decided that ToRs (terms of reference) would be prepared with the consensus of both the sides and operation would be conducted as per the ToRs.
From the PTI, Shibli Faraz and Ali Muhammad Khan were appointed as persons while SSP Imran Kishwar was to represent the police for communication.
Fawad said that SSP Kishwar was not taken into the loop by the authorities while conducting the operation. Now it was being said that the police officer was not even informed about the action, he added.
Terming the police action in Zaman Park a “violation of the LHC order”, Fawad vowed to move the court seeking contempt of court proceedings against the Punjab IG and other police officials.
Berating PML-N senior vice president Maryam Nawaz, he said what Maryam said yesterday was applied today.
Instead of focusing on inflation, and foreign and economic policies, the government was wasting its energies to arrest Khan, he added.
The PTI leader claimed that a woman [Maryam] had hijacked the Pakistan Democratic Movement —an alliance of the ruling parties. “Those who are real politicians will keep their voice apart from Maryam Nawaz, he added.
The PTI leader said that Bushra Bibi, Khan’s wife, and his domestic help were at home when the police raided the former prime minister’s house.
Speaking on the occasion, PTI leader Shireen Mazari said what happened in Zaman Park was clearly state terrorism. “This is a London plan … on the other hand it is also a scheme to bring Maryam into power,” she said.
The PTI leader accused Punjab IGP of telling blatant lies. “The country has been turned into a fascist state,” Mazari said alleging police of faking the evidence.
She said everyone saw the police breaking into the house while carrying weapons.
Turning her guns at Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Mazari said he was compromising the security of the state.
“International Monetary Fund has called on Pakistan to roll back its long-range missile programme,” the politician said adding the core agenda was being pursued here and the country’s nuclear capability was at stake here.
Condemning the police action, PTI chief Imran Khan said the police have led an assault on my house in Zaman Park where Bushra Begum is alone.
“Under what law are they doing this?” he asked.
Khan insisted this was part of the “London Plan” where commitments were made to bring absconder Nawaz Sharif to power as quid pro quo for agreeing to one appointment.
The PTI chairman has also filed a writ petition against the police operation at his Zaman Park residence.
The Federation of Pakistan, Punjab’s interim government, the provincial chief secretary, IG police, and others have been made parties in the petition.
In his petition, Khan said that he is an honest, law-abiding, and patriotic citizen of Pakistan. The PTI chairman maintained that he has “always striven to ensure enforcement of fundamental rights".
He maintained that the acts of the respondents are clearly a violation of the Constitutional rights of the citizens provided under Articles 4, 10-A, and 25 of the Constitution.
The petition also sought court orders for the respondents, especially the Punjab chief secretary, IG, provincial administration, and the interim chief minister to immediately stop as well as refrain from restarting the ongoing “arbitrary, illegal and unlawful” operation in future, in the interest of justice equity and fair play.
Meanwhile, Punjab Information Minister Amir Mir said that Molotov cocktails were thrown at police and the operation is launched against elements involved in violent activities.
"No-go areas are being removed. The police action will end in an hour," Mir added.
The police had reached an agreement with the PTI — submitted to the Lahore High Court (LHC) — in which both sides finalised the terms of conditions related to holding rallies, security of the PTI chief and other legal matters.
As per the details, the PTI will cooperate with the administration to implement the arrest warrants and search warrants.
The PTI has nominated Senator Shibli Faraz and former state minister Ali Muhammad Khan as focal persons while SSP Imran Kishwar will represent the police for communication. The PTI will cooperate with the police for an investigation in cases registered over clashes that occurred on March 14 and 15.
It has also been decided that the PTI will hold a public gathering on Monday instead of Sunday while it would contact the administration for permission. The PTI will also inform the administration five days before holding the rally.
The government will implement the guidelines formulated for the security of the PTI chief and the party would submit a request for security to the authorities concerned.