'Deadlock' as PTI refuses to allow Zaman Park search operation

Govt delegation informs PTI chief of terrorists' presence; Imran Khan sets conditions for search; negotiations end after more than an hour

By
Ahmed Faraz
|
Azam Malik
|
Web Desk
Members of the media, who were invited to visit, are seen at the premises of former prime minister Imran Khans house, after the government warned him to hand over supporters who it blamed for attacks on the army, in Lahore, May 18, 2023. — Reuters
Members of the media, who were invited to visit, are seen at the premises of former prime minister Imran Khan's house, after the government warned him to hand over supporters who it blamed for attacks on the army, in Lahore, May 18, 2023. — Reuters

LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has refused to allow a police party to conduct a search operation of party chairman Imran Khan's Zaman Park residence in the provincial capital as the authorities seek to detain "terrorists" present inside his house.

The Punjab government Wednesday claimed that "30-40 terrorists were hiding inside Khan's residence" and gave 24 hours to PTI to hand over these miscreants or face action — but even after the passage of 48 hours, no action has been taken.

The government's negotiation team — after securing search warrants from an anti-terrorism court — was at Zaman Park for more than an hour and discussed the SOPs with the PTI chief and his legal team, but they could not make headway.

Khan, according to people privy to the meetings, has put forth some of his conditions for the search, and the delegation will present them before the interim government.

The authorities also presented the "evidence" before the PTI chief about the terrorists' — who attacked smashed and set ablaze military installations — presence inside his residence, but he did not budge.

The authorities have begun a crackdown on PTI workers and leaders after they torched public property and defence installations following the arrest of Khan on May 9, which the army dubbed as "Balck Day".

Iftikhar Rasool Ghumman, an aide of Khan, said his party "satisfied" the government team and informed that "there is nothing" here as claimed by authorities.

"We will welcome the government team whenever they come," he added.

Govt's plans?

Punjab Caretaker Information Minister Amir Mir said there is a "deadlock" between the government and the PTI over the search operation at Zaman Park.

"Imran Khan has insisted that only four police personnel search his house," Mir told Geo News' Shahzad Iqbal, noting that the visiting delegation provided a list of 2,200 people wanted in different cases.

"Hassan Niazi, Zubair Niazi, Murad Saeed, Azam Swati, and Hammad Azhar are wanted. We tracked their location through geofencing," the information minister said.

But in response, Khan told the delegation that the people that the authorities were hunting down were not at his residence, Mir said.

Talking to Geo News' Shahzeb Khanzada a day earlier about if Khan does not allow the search, Mir said: "If he does not permit the delegation to conduct the search, then we will decide our strategy, but for now, we will want things to be conducted in a positive manner."

Six more terrorists arrested

Earlier, Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Bilal Saddique Kamyana claimed to have arrested six more “terrorists” attempting to flee from Zaman Park, bringing the total number of people arrested to 14.

According to CCPO Kamyana four of the alleged “terrorists” were involved in the attack on Askari Tower, while two of them were among those who ransacked the Corps Commander House Lahore.

Punjab Caretaker Information Minister Mir Thursday shared that eight “terrorists” had been arrested while they were escaping from Lahore’s Zaman Park area.

The detained terrorists were already identified and are allegedly involved in the attack on the Lahore Corps Commander House on May 9, he had said.

Refrence against judge  

Meanwhile, the road between Mall Road and Dharmapura in Lahore has been closed off by the police, while all the roads leading to Zaman Park have been cordoned off.

During a meeting today, Punjab Caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi ordered that the cases registered against the miscreants must be pursued with full force and that the “fugitives" should be arrested as soon as possible.

The meeting was held to review the law and order situation in the province and the progress made so far in search of perpetrators involved in the May 9 protests.

The participants of the meeting also expressed concerns over the alleged facilitation of those who attacked the office of the Inter-services Intelligence (ISI) office in Faisalabad. 

Those accused of being involved in the attack include Ali Afzal Sahi, who is reportedly a close relative of a judge, amongst others.

It was also decided in the session that a reference would be sent against a judge for providing extraordinary facilities to terrorists, while the “illegal and unconstitutional facilitation” of those accused of the violence will also be challenged.

“Facilitation of the suspects is equivalent to the murder of justice,” the meeting observed.