More than 10,000 heavily armed Punjabi police officers launched a major operation at the Lahore residence of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and arrested dozens of staff of his party, claiming to be attending the event after he left for Islamabad. Weapons and petrol bombs seized hours after court hearing in corruption case against him
The police launched a “grand operation” at Mr Khan’s Zaman Park residence in Lahore, dismantling all camps and roadblocks set up there by Jamadah militants to prevent his arrest in the Toshakhana case.
The 70-year-old PTI chief has been at a crossroads buying gifts, including the expensive Graff watches he received as prime minister at a discount from a state depository institution called Toshakhana, and selling them at a profit.
During the operation, 61 PTI workers were arrested, about 10 PTI workers and 3 policemen were injured.
Earlier this week, Imran Khan’s residence had been a battleground between his party operatives and police and rangers over his “arrest operation” in the case.
However, PTI staff managed to thwart his arrest attempt and earlier this week, the Lahore High Court ordered a halt to the operation.
Speaking at a press conference after the operation, Punjab Police Commissioner Dr Usman Anwar said that earlier, the police had stopped operations at Zaman Park following LHC orders and PSL matches.
“However, the court did not stop us from taking action against those involved in the attack on the police. Today we launched an operation at 12 noon. We faced resistance from PTI workers, but we managed to control the situation and arrested 61 workers,” he said.
The IGP said 20 rifles, including Kalashnikovs and petrol bomb bottles, had been recovered from Imran Khan’s residence.
He said that some bunkers had also been built in the Zaman Park area, adding that Mr. Khan would be prosecuted in this regard.
Imran Khan’s house was raided after police obtained a search warrant, he said.
Police allegedly tortured PTI staff and Mr Khan’s employees during the operation.
Video footage showed police beating PTI staff after entering Imran Khan’s residence.
Police, who claimed they had been shot from inside, broke down the gate and front wall of Imran Khan’s home and searched the entire home.
“Mr. Khan’s domestic staff in Zaman Park were brutally tortured by police who vandalized the house in complete violation of the Lahore High Court order. Cook Safeer was taken away by the police after beating Shaukat the driver and Ishaq the cleaner. Their personal Items including cash and mobile phones were also confiscated by the violent police,” said Shireen Mazari, a senior PTI leader.
Punjab caretaker government Information Minister Amir Mir said the police operation was to clear the Zaman Park area.
“Zaman Park has become a no-go zone. As many as 10,000 Punjab police officers have been involved in the clean-up operation. We have also received reports that members of banned organizations are also hissing there,” the cricketer-turned-politician said in a statement. Condemning the police actions in a series of tweets, he said: “It is now clear that the PDM government intends to arrest me despite the fact that I have been granted bail in all cases. Despite knowing their malicious intentions, I am heading to Islamabad and the courts because I believe in the rule of law. But the malice of this cabal of crooks should be clear to all.” “At the same time, the Punjab police launched an attack on my house in Zaman Park, where Bushra Begum was alone. They did so on the basis of What law? It’s part of a plan in London that promises to bring absconder Nawaz Sharif to power to agree to the status quo with an appointment.” Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah told Geo News that the police were fired from inside the residence. He went on to say that a “no-go zone” had been set up outside the house of the 70-year-old PTI chief.
Mr Sanaullah further revealed that fences had been erected to target the police.
He said all “terrorists” who were present at the Zaman Park house had been apprehended, and claimed to have recovered explosives, petrol bombs and bomb-making materials from the scene.
Asked if the government was planning to arrest Imran Khan, Rana Sanaullah said the PTI chief had been released on bail before his arrest. He further clarified that the government wanted him to appear in court.
The minister insisted that the police were not armed and clarified that they did not enter the area where Mr Khan’s wife, Bushra Bibi, was present.
“Section 144 is enforced, please disperse,” the police announcement said before breaking into Mr Khan’s residence.
Television footage showed police entering Imran Khan’s eight-canal house after using an excavator to tear down the main iron gate.
Imran Khan also tweeted that the siege of Lahore was not to ensure his appearance in court, but to imprison him and prevent him from leading the PTI campaign.
Established in 1974, Toshakhana is a department under the executive control of the Cabinet Department to house valuable gifts from other governments and heads of state as well as foreign dignitaries to rulers, MPs, bureaucrats and officials.
In October last year, Mr Khan was disqualified by Pakistan’s Election Commission for not disclosing details of the sale.
The electoral body later filed a case in a district court seeking to punish him under the penal code for selling gifts he received as the country’s prime minister.
Imran Khan, who vehemently denies the allegations, will be charged in the case.
Meanwhile, the Islamabad police issued a traffic warning, saying citizens may face traffic difficulties due to tight security measures around the G-11 Judiciary Building, causing inconvenience.
On Friday night, the Islamabad government implemented Article 144 in the capital, which prohibits private companies, security personnel or individuals from carrying weapons. Drivers must carry vehicle registration documents while driving.
The government on Friday moved the location of the additional court session to a relatively secure judicial building to hear the case after PTI raised security concerns, Dawn reported.
(Aside from the title, this story is unedited by NDTV staff and published via a syndicated feed.)