Pakistan Rangers Join Police In Fresh Attempt To Arrest Ex-PM Imran Khan

Police and supporters of Imran Khan clashed in front of his Lahore home.


A heavy contingent of Punjab Rangers joined the police personnel near Imran Khan’s Zaman Park residence here on Wednesday to launch a fresh attempt at arresting the ousted Pakistani premier for failing to appear in court on graft charges.

Lahore’s Zaman Park area has turned into a battleground after Khan’s defiant supporters engaged in pitched battles with police personnel on Tuesday to stop them from arresting their leader, resulting in injuries to dozens of policemen.

The upscale area where 70-year-old Khan lives remained under siege on Wednesday as the government sent Pakistani Rangers to aid police teams who struggled on Tuesday to muscle their way through a ring of enraged Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf supporters to arrest Khan.

The police, with their riot gear on, closed in on Khan’s home in order to comply with the court orders to arrest him in the Toshakhana case.

“Clearly ‘arrest’ claim was mere drama because real intent is to abduct & assassinate. From tear gas & water cannons, they have now resorted to lfiring. I signed a surety bond last evening, but the DIG refused to even entertain it. There is no doubt of their mala fide intent,” Khan tweeted on Wednesday.

As the Pakistan Rangers joined the ‘Arrest Imran Khan Operation’, the PTI claimed that live bullets are being fired at the party workers present on the roads leading to Khan’s residence.

Khan also uploaded pictures of the bullets and slammed the Pakistan Army for taking part in the police operation.

“After our workers & leadership faced police onslaught since yesterday morning of tear gas, cannons with chemical water, rubber bullets & live bullets this morning; we now have Rangers taking over & are now in direct confrontation with the people,” Khan tweeted.

“My question to the Establishment, to those who claim they are ‘neutral’: Is this your idea of neutrality, Rangers directly confronting unarmed protestors & ldrship of largest pol party when their ldr is facing an illegal warrant & case already in court & when govt of crooks trying to abduct & possibly murder him?” he wrote on Wednesday.

In an interview with the BBC Urdu, Khan said it seemed the alleged promises made to PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif by the military establishment were being kept.

“I don’t understand why the establishment and the army chief are backing the PDM government even though it is damaging the reputation of the state institution (army),” he said.

Khan said the PML-N government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif would not last a single day without the crutches of the establishment.

“There are no attempts to get in touch with Army Chief Gen Asim Munir,” he said.

The police, with their riot gear on, closed in Khan’s home on Tuesday in order to comply with the court orders.

Talking about the clashes that ensued after the operation started, Khan said 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 am all mentally prepared that I am going to spend my night in a cell and I don’t know how many nights. I am all prepared for that. But I think they are determined [this time] and they want me behind bars,” he was quoted as saying by Geo News.

Fearing the worst, various PTI leaders – including Khan himself – appealed to party workers to rush to Zaman Park, where they served as human shields and stood between Khan’s residence and the police.

The police fired tear gas shells but were met with resistance and found PTI workers undeterred.

For more than 11 hours, PTI workers engaged capital police in pitched battles that continued late into the night.

As night fell in Lahore, the PTI workers had gained the upper hand – not only had it opened more fronts across the city, the influx of a large number of supporters into Zaman Park forced security men to retreat. By midnight, police had suffered around 30 casualties.

Punjab police chief Usman Anwar said around 30 policemen were injured in the operation.

He said police are only following the court orders to arrest Khan.

“But those inciting their workers to attack the police team need to realise the magnitude of their crime. This is simply terrorism as defined by the law,” he said, adding that anti-terror charges would be invoked against those inciting PTI workers to target the police contingent.

At a late-night meeting summoned by the Punjab interim chief minister Mohsin Naqvi to take stock of the security situation in the provincial capital, it was decided to make another bid to detain the PTI chief and wrap up the operation before the morning.

In order to set the plan in motion, fresh units of police and Rangers took positions on The Mall in the early hours of Wednesday.

This is the second time in less than 10 days that the police have arrived at Zaman Park to apprehend the deposed prime minister.

In a late-night tweet, PTI leader Asad Umar said the president of the Lahore High Court Bar Association had assured that Khan would appear in the court on March 18.

In light of the undertaking, there was “no justification” for the police operation, he added.

Khan, in a video message on Tuesday, asked his supporters to “come out” to fight for real freedom and continue the struggle even if he is killed or arrested. “They (the government) think that after my arrest, the nation will fall asleep. 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 jail or if I am killed, you have to prove that you will struggle without Imran Khan and not accept the slavery of these thieves and of the one person who has been making decisions for the country,” he said.

The standoff in Zaman Park has triggered protests across the country, and several cities saw protests by PTI workers.

In Islamabad, at least four policemen were injured and over two dozen supporters of the former ruling were detained after protests erupted in several parts of the federal capital, resulting in logjams across the city.

A series of organised and sporadic protests broke out in Karachi with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf workers blocking roads and disrupting traffic in several areas of the city.

Soon after Khan’s speech, protests broke out also in Peshawar, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Vehari, Quetta, and Mianwali.

The PTI has declared that it would not let law enforcement agencies arrest Khan as it fears he may be given poison in jail.

Khan 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.

On Monday, the Lahore police booked Khan in a case related to the killing of the PTI worker – Ali Bilal alias Zille Shah – in a road accident.

Earlier, the Lahore police had registered an FIR against Khan and 400 others for the murder of Shah.

This is the 81st FIR against Khan since the PML-N-led federal coalition came into power 11 months ago after toppling his government through a no-confidence motion.

Khan was ousted from power in April last year after losing a no-confidence vote, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China and Afghanistan.

Since his ouster, Khan has been asking for early elections to oust what he termed an “imported government” led by prime minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Sharif has maintained that elections will be held later this year once the parliament completes its five-year tenure.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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