Lahore: Over 10,000 armed Punjab police personnel launched a major operation at Imran Khan’s residence here and arrested dozens of workers of his party after the former Pakistan prime minister left for Islamabad to appear before a court hearing a corruption case against him.
The police personnel, using a power shovel, removed the barricades and tents from the entrance of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party chief’s Zaman Park residence and evicted hundreds of activists who were camping there to prevent Khan from being arrested in the Toshakhana case.
The Punjab police, whose action has ended now, was reportedly met with resistance from PTI workers from inside, which resulted in a baton charge.
Some activists 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 Imran khan left Lahore for Islamabad to attend the hearing in the Toshakhana case, in which he is set to be indicted.
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 went on to say that a no-go area had been created outside the 70-year-old PTI chief’s house.
Sanaullah further revealed that fences had been erected with the intention of targeting the police.
He said that all terrorists present inside Zaman Park house had been apprehended, and claimed that cache of explosives, petrol bombs, and bomb-making materials had been 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 further clarified 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 eight-canal 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, wounding several on both sides when the former 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, Dawn Newspaper reported.
Condemning the police action, the PTI chief said the police have led an assault on my house in Zaman Park where Bushra Begum is 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 Nawaz Sharif to power as quid pro quo for agreeing to one appointment.
Meanwhile, Punjab Information Minister Amir Mir said that Molotov cocktails were thrown at police and the operation was launched against elements involved in violent activities.
The minister further said a number of PTI workers have been taken into custody.
During the operation, Mir said three policemen and six PTI workers suffered injuries.
He said that police had search warrants for Imran Khan’s residence. “The anti-terrorism court had issued the search warrants of Khan’s residence and (only) after that police entered his house,” he said.
Khan also tweeted 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 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.
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, who has vehemently denied those charges, is set to be indicted in the case.
Meanwhile, Islamabad police have issued a traffic advisory, stating that due to tight security measures around the Judicial Complex in G-11, citizens may face difficulty in traffic movement, leading to inconvenience.
The Islamabad administration on Friday night imposed Section 144 in the capital, prohibiting private companies, security guards, or individuals from carrying weapons. It is mandatory for drivers to carry their vehicle registration documents while driving.
The government had on Friday shifted the venue of the additional sessions court to a comparatively safer Judicial Complex for the hearing of the case after the PTI raised security concerns, Dawn reported.