Over 10,000 armed Punjab police personnel launched a major operation at former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan’s residence here and arrested dozens of workers of his party and claimed to have seized weapons and petrol bombs, hours after he left for Islamabad to appear before a court hearing a corruption case against him.
The police launched the “grand operation” at Khan’s Zaman Park residence here and removed all camps, and barricades erected there by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party activists to prevent his arrest in the Toshakhana case.
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The 70-year-old PTI chief 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.
During the operation, 61 workers of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party were arrested and about 10 PTI workers and three policemen were injured.
Khan’s residence remained a battlefield between his party workers and police and Rangers for two days earlier this week over his “arrest operation” in the case.
The PTI workers however succeeded in foiling his arrest attempt and the operation was halted on the Lahore High Court’s order earlier this week.
Inspector General Police Punjab Dr. Usman Anwar after the operation told a press conference that earlier the police had stopped the operation at Zaman Park on LHC order and PSL match.
“However, the court didn’t stop us from taking action against those involved in attacking police.
Today we launched an operation at 12 noon. We faced resistance from the PTI workers however we managed to control the situation and arrested 61 workers,” he said.
The IGP said that 20 rifles, including Kalashnikov, and petrol bomb bottles have been recovered from Khan’s residence.
Some bunkers were also built in the Zaman Park area, he said, adding that a case will be registered against Khan in this regard.
He said Khan’s house had been raided after police got search warrants.
During the operation, police allegedly tortured PTI workers and Khan’s house employees.
Footages show police beating PTI workers after entering Khan’s residence.
The police, which claims that shots were fired upon them from inside, broke the main gate and front walls of Khan’s house and searched the whole premises.
“Domestic staff of Mr Khan at Zaman Park has been brutally tortured by cops vandalising the house in sheer violation of Lahore High Court’s orders. Cook Safeer has been taken away by police after beating up driver Shaukat and sweeper Ishaq. Their personal belongings including cash and mobile phones have also been confiscated by the violent cops,” PTI senior leader Shireen Mazari said.
Punjab caretaker government information minister Amir Mir said the police operation was launched to clear the Zaman Park area.
“Zaman Park had become a no-go area. As many as 10,000 Punjab police took part in the operation to clear it. We had also reports that the members of banned organizations were also hissing there.” The cricketer-turned-politician, decrying the police operation, in a series of tweets said: “It is now clear that, despite my having gotten bail in all my cases, the PDM govt intends to arrest me. Despite knowing their malafide intentions, I am proceeding to Islamabad and the court because I believe in rule of law. But ill intent of this cabal of crooks should be clear to all.” “Meanwhile, Punjab police have led an assault on my house in Zaman Park where Bushra Begum is alone. Under what law are they doing this? This is 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.” Talking to Geo News, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah alleged that the police were fired upon from inside the residence. He went on to say that a “no-go area” had been created outside the 70-year-old PTI chief’s house.
Sanaullah further revealed that fences had been erected to target the police.
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He said that all “terrorists” present inside Zaman Park house had been apprehended, and claimed that cache of explosives, petrol bombs, and bomb-making materials had been recovered from the site.
When asked if the government intended to arrest Khan, Sanaullah said the PTI chief had already received bail before being arrested. He further clarified that the government wanted him to appear in court.
The minister maintained that the police were unarmed, and clarified that they had not entered the area where Khan’s wife Bushra Bibi was present.
“Section 144 is imposed, you are kindly advised to disperse,” police said in an announcement before barging into Khan’s residence.
Television footage showed police entering Khan’s eight-canal house after using an excavator to bring down the main iron gate.
Khan also tweeted the siege of Lahore was not about ensuring his appearance in the court but aimed at imprisoning him and preventing him from leading the PTI’s election campaign.
Established in 1974, the Toshakhana is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division and stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats, and officials by heads of other governments and states and foreign dignitaries.
Khan was disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan in October last year for not sharing details of the sales.
The election body later filed a complaint with the district court to punish him, under criminal laws, for selling the gifts he had received as prime minister of the country.
Khan, who has vehemently denied those charges, is set to be indicted in the case.
Meanwhile, Islamabad police have issued a traffic advisory, stating that due to tight security measures around the Judicial Complex in G-11, citizens may face difficulty in traffic movement, leading to inconvenience.
The Islamabad administration on Friday night imposed Section 144 in the capital, prohibiting private companies, security guards, or individuals from carrying weapons. Drivers must carry their vehicle registration documents while driving.
The government had on Friday shifted the venue of the additional sessions court to a comparatively safer Judicial Complex for the hearing of the case after the PTI raised security concerns, Dawn reported.