Lahore’s Zaman Park under siege after clashes between police and Imran Khan supporters

LAHORE: Tear gas shells, burnt tires and vehicles litter the roads of Lahore Zaman Park area that turned into a battlefield after followers of Imran Khan engaged in pitched battles lasting more than 11 hours with police officers to prevent them from arresting the ousted Pakistani Prime Minister, leaving dozens of police officers injured.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers and police clashed in the Zaman Park area of ​​Lahore on Tuesday after a contingent of Islamabad police, along with armored vehicles, reached the home of the Khan party leader in Lahore to arrest him after the issuance of a non-releasable warrant. in the ongoing Toshakhana (deposit of gifts) case against him.
“Obviously the request for ‘arrest’ was just a drama, because the real intention is to kidnap and murder. Tear gas and water cannons, they have now resorted to shooting live ammunition. I signed a bond last night, but the DIG refused to even accept it. There is no doubt that they intended bad faith,” Khan tweeted on Wednesday.
Police, in their riot gear and backed by Rangers, moved closer to the home of 70-year-old Khan to comply with court orders to arrest him in the Toshakhana case.
Fearing the worst, various PTI leaders – including Khan himself – called on party workers to rush to Zaman Park, where they acted as human shields and stood between Khan’s residence and the police.
The police fired tear gas canisters but met resistance and did not deter the PTI workers.
“After our workers and leaders were attacked by the police since yesterday morning with tear gas, chemical water cannons, rubber bullets and live ammunition this morning, we now have Rangers taking over and we We are now in direct confrontation with the people,” Khan tweeted.
“My question to the establishment, to those who claim to be ‘neutral’: is this your idea of ​​neutrality, the Rangers directly confronting unarmed protesters and the leader of the largest political party when their leader faces a warrant? illegal and a case already in court and when government of crooks trying to kidnap and possibly murder him?” he wrote on Wednesday.
For more than 11 hours, PTI workers engaged the capital’s police in pitched battles that continued late into the night.
As night fell in Lahore, PTI workers had gained the upper hand – not only had they opened more fronts across the city, but the influx of large numbers of supporters into Zaman Park forced officers to safety to retreat. By midnight, police had claimed around 30 victims, the Dawn newspaper reported on Wednesday.
At a late night meeting convened by Acting Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi to review the security situation in the provincial capital, it was decided to make another bid to arrest the leader of the PTI and conclude the operation before morning.
In order to put the plan into motion, new police and Ranger units took up positions on The Mall in the early hours of Wednesday, according to the report.
This is the second time in less than 10 days that the police have arrived in Zaman Park to apprehend the ousted prime minister.
In a conversation with the BBC, Khan said the police came “all of a sudden” to arrest him without informing him.
“We saw on the news that the police were coming to arrest me,” he said.
“I’m all prepared mentally that I’m going to spend my night in a cell and I don’t know how many nights. I’m all prepared for that. But I think they’re determined [this time] and they want me behind bars,” he said, according to Geo News.
In a late-night tweet, PTI chief Asad Umar said the president of the Lahore High Court Bar Association had assured that Khan would appear in court on March 18.
In light of the pledge, there was “no justification” for the police operation, he added.
Khan, in a video message on Tuesday, called on his followers to “come out” to fight for true freedom and continue the fight even if he is killed or arrested. “They (the government) think that after my arrest the nation will go to sleep. You have to prove them wrong,” he said in the video.
“God has given me everything, and I am fighting this battle for you. I have been fighting this battle all my life, and I will continue to do so.
“If something happens to me and I am sent to prison or I am killed, you must prove that you will fight without Imran Khan and not accept the slavery of these thieves and the only person who made decisions for the country,” he said.
The standoff at Zaman Park sparked nationwide protests, and several cities saw demonstrations by PTI workers.
In Islamabad, at least four police officers were injured and more than two dozen supporters of the former ruling were arrested after protests erupted in several parts of the federal capital, leading to traffic jams across the city.
A series of organized and sporadic protests erupted in Karachi, with Pakistani Tehreek-e-Insaf workers blocking roads and disrupting traffic in several parts of the city.
Shortly after Khan’s speech, protests also erupted in Peshawar, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Vehari, Quetta and Mianwali.
The PTI said it would not let law enforcement arrest Khan as it fears he may be given poison in prison.
Khan has been in the crosshairs for buying gifts including an expensive Graff wristwatch he received as prime minister at a discount from the state depository called Toshakhana and selling them for a profit.
On Monday, Lahore Police charged Khan in a case related to the murder of PTI worker – Ali Bilal alias Zille Shah – in a road accident.
Earlier, Lahore police registered an FIR against Khan and 400 others for Shah’s murder.
This is the 81st FIR against Khan since the PML-N-led federal coalition came to power 11 months ago after overthrowing his government in a no-confidence motion.
Khan was ousted from power in April last year after losing a no-confidence vote, which he said was part of a US-led plot targeting him over his independent policy decisions foreign policy on Russia, China and Afghanistan.
Since his ouster, Khan has called for a snap election to oust what he called an “imported government” led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Sharif maintained that elections will be held later this year once the parliament completes its five-year term.


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