LAHORE: Despite Imran Khan’s chief of staff Senator Shibli Faraz claiming that the former prime minister was not at Zaman Park, the former prime minister is currently at his Lahore residence addressing the workers who participated in the party’s “Jail Bharo Tehreek” (court arrest movement).
Khan’s appearance comes amid a swarm of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers gathered at Zaman Park after the Islamabad police arrived at former prime minister Imran Khan’s Lahore residence to make his arrest for the Toshakhana case.
Additional sessions judge Zafar Iqbal of an Islamabad court had issued the former prime minister’s non-bailable arrest warrant on February 28 for continuously failing to appear before the court in the Toshakhana case.
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 a superintendent of police (SP).
“We are being assisted by the Lahore police,” said the Islamabad police official who spoke to the media.
IG Islamabad while talking to Geo News said that the officers are 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 is avoiding arrest, adding that the SP Hussain 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, Khan’s Chief of Staff Senator Shibli Faraz received the warrant of 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 inside,” 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 Zaman Park. Following which 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 then we are here to play a role of a bridge without compromising on our basic principles,” said Qureshi.
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 to not even think about “causing any bloodshed”.
He asked all workers to should reach Zaman Park in the PTI chief’s support.
Maryam labels Khan a ‘coward’
Following the PTI chief’s refusal to give arrest, PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz, while referring 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 will be arrested the day govt decides to do so’
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, while talking to media in Faisalabad, said that the police had arrived at Zaman Park to implement 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 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.
— This is a developing story and is being updated with more details.