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Πέμπτη, 30 Μαρτίου, 2023

Pakistan Police Arrests PTI Supporters After Breaking Into Imran Khan’s Lahore Residence

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Over 10,000 armed Punjab police personnel stormed Imran Khan’s residence here on Saturday and arrested dozens of his party workers after the former Pakistan prime minister left for Islamabad to attend a court hearing in a corruption case against him. The police personnel, using a power shovel, removed the barricades and tents at the entrance of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party chief’s Zaman Park residence and evicted hundreds of his supporters camping there to prevent Khan’s arrest in the Toshakhana case. They conducted a search at the house after demolishing its main gate and walls.

Punjab police, whose action ended later, were reportedly met with resistance from PTI workers from inside, resulting in violence. Dozens od PTI workers were taken into custody as the police claimed shots were fired upon them from inside the premises, Geo News reported. Some 10 workers reportedly were injured in the operation after Khan left Lahore for Islamabad to attend the hearing in the Toshakhana case.

Speaking at a press conference here on Saturday, senior PTI leaders Shireen Mazari, Fawad Chaudhry and Shahbaz Gill condemned the major operation at Khan’s house and brutal police torture of PTI workers. They blamed ruling PMLN’s chief organiser Maryam Nawaz and “her patron” in the military establishment for the “attack” and gave  a countrywide protest call to the party workers.

“Police operation at Imran Khan’s house was launched on the direction of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz. This episode should be seen as part of the ‘London Plan’ made by Nawaz and a powerful man in the establishment,” Mazari said. “Promises were made to Nawaz on top level appointment (a reference to appointment of new army chief Gen Asim Munir) that Imran Khan would be ousted from politics,” she said. She said the police action at Khan’s house exposed the “fascist face” of the ruling party and its handlers.

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Chaudhry said Maryam was acting like a “queen” and the whole state machinery was acting at her directions. He said the party has given a call to its workers to hold countrywide protests against the police brutality in Lahore and Islamabad. “Pakistan can’t run like this. This is the final phase of struggle of PTI and it will manage to get real freedom and soon elections will be held,” he said. The Lahore High Court on Friday granted a request by Punjab IGP Dr. Usman Anwar to search Khan’s Zaman Park residence as part of an investigation into attacks on police teams.

Talking to Geo News, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah alleged that the police were fired upon from inside the residence. He said that all “terrorists” present inside Zaman Park house had been apprehended, and claimed that explosives, petrol bombs and bomb-making materials were 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 added 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 house after using an excavator to bring down the main iron gate. Earlier, Khan in a video message said he was aware that the government would arrest him as he headed to the Islamabad court to attend the Toshakhana case hearing amid protracted efforts from law enforcers to apprehend him for missing previous hearings.

The police and PTI supporters recently fought pitched battles outside the former prime minister’s home in Lahore, causing injuries to many as the security forces tried to arrest Khan. A heavy contingent of the police was deployed in the area after an agreement was reached between the administration and the PTI on Friday regarding the search in Zaman Park. During the search operation, the police recovered material used to produce Molotov cocktails, the Dawn newspaper reported. Condemning the police action, the PTI chief said the police have led an assault on my house in Zaman Park where his wife Bushra was 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 Sharif to power as quid pro quo for agreeing to one appointment. Khan also tweeted that 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. The PTI leader has been in the dock 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.

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 has vehemently denied those charges.

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