- Says crackdown on leaders, supporters being done to crush PTI
Former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Friday demanded evidence regarding his party’s involvement in the May 9 violence, saying that if anyone from the PTI were involved, he would help the police in their arrest, Aaj News reported.
“But this is not the case. All this is being done to crush the PTI,” Imran said while addressing a press conference outside his Zaman Park residence.
Imran said there are videos of Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Yasmin Rashid asking people to stay peaceful.
In a message to “whoever is behind the crackdown of party leaders”, Imran said that such action would only increase the vote bank of the PTI.
“Whoever is doing this, remember what I say, this will only strengthen the party … when a party’s votebank is over 70 per cent, it won’t matter who comes or leaves.”
The PTI chief also refuted the propaganda that he did not condemn the May 9 violence.
“I have said this from day one that my party can’t do this. The day I went to Supreme Court after four days in jail I condemned this in front of the chief justice,” he said.
’ No dialogues underway’
Imran Khan also rejected reports of any dialogue, saying those who want PTI to be banned don’t want any dialogue to be held.
“I am a political man and am ready for dialogue, but dialogue is not happening because they want to ban the party.”
Govt looking for ‘wanted’ people, not ‘terrorists’
Imran further said that the authorities were not looking for terrorists but only “wanted” people at his Zaman Park residence in Lahore.
“Unlike their earlier claim, they are now saying that they are hunting down wanted people and not terrorists,” Imran said.
Operation against ‘encroachments’ outside Zaman Park
Soon after Imran’s presser, the district administration of Lahore started an operation against “encroachments” outside the PTI chairman’s residence.
PTI leaders had installed camps outside the party chief’s residence, which are now being removed with the help of heavy machinery.
Punjab govt delegation returns from Zaman Park
Earlier, a Punjab government delegation led by Commissioner Lahore departed after holding about two-hour negotiations with Imran Khan’s legal team at Zaman Park.
The delegation comprised Lahore Commissioner Muhammad Ali Randhawa, Deputy Commissioner Rafia Haider, DIG Operations Sadiq Dogar, and SSP Operations Sohaib.
Reports suggested that Imran put forth conditions before allowing a search operation at his residence, including removing the blockade outside his home.
CM Punjab orders removal of Zaman Park blockade
Soon after, Interim Chief Minister Punjab Mohsin Naqvi directed the police to lift the blockade so that “encroachments inside Zaman Park” could be removed.
“As soon as encroachments inside Zaman Park are removed, we will call back the police deployed outside,” he said in a statement.
‘Deadlock persists over search at Zaman Park’
Regarding the development, Punjab Interim Information Minister Amir Mir said a deadlock persisted between the provincial government and Imran Khan regarding the search operation at Zaman Park.
“No agreement has been reached on the search operation,” he revealed in an interview with Geo News.
Mir said the government did not want to take an extreme step. Therefore, a delegation visited Imran Khan’s residence and held a 1.5-hour meeting with him.
He said the delegation also handed over a list of 2,200 “wanted people” involved in the attacks on military installations during the May 9 violence, claiming that these people were traced via geofencing.
“Among these people are also people from his family who have been named in the list,” he said.
Some of the people Mir said have been named in the list include PTI leaders Hassan Niazi, Hammad Azhar, Zubair Niazi, Murad Saeed and Azam Swati.
Meanwhile, PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s chief security officer Iftikhar Ghuman told the media that the Punjab police returned from Zaman Park “empty-handed”.
Talking to journalists outside the former prime minister’s residence, Iftikhar Ghuman said: “I think they have understood that there is nothing here. The only thing they got here was water and biscuits.
“We opened the doors of the house for them in front of you. Now you ask them what they got.”
PTI’s official Twitter handle said the government’s delegation was fully satisfied.
“People who visited party chairman Imran Khan’s Zaman Park residence with arrest warrants were fully satisfied”.
“We believe in the rule of law, therefore, they were given full cooperation,” the party tweeted.
Earlier, the Punjab Police secured a warrant to search Imran Khan’s residence and sent a four-member team to discuss SOPs for the search with the PTI chief’s legal team.
On Wednesday, the Punjab government gave a 24-hour deadline to Imran to “hand over the terrorists hiding at Zaman Park”.
Following the end of the deadline on Thursday, the provincial leadership decided to send a delegation to Imran’s residence that Commissioner Lahore will lead.
Police contingents of nearly 400 cops would also accompany the delegation “to arrest terrorists hiding there”, Punjab Caretaker Information Minister Amir Mir.
Multiple operations have been conducted at Zaman Park over the past few months.
On March 14, 2023, an operation at Imran’s residence became hours-long clashes between police and PTI workers. Later, the court halted Punjab Police from continuing the process.
After the clashes, Punjab Police said that it found assault rifles, bullets, petrol bombs and other ammunition during the raid.
Six terrorists arrested while fleeing Zaman Park
Separately, the Punjab Police on Friday arrested six “terrorists” attempting to flee Zaman Park, according to Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Bilal Saddique Kamyana.
This takes the total number of arrests of people fleeing from Zaman Park to 14.
“Four of the terrorists were involved in the attack on Askari Tower while two of them were among those who ransacked the Corps Commander House Lahore,” said Kamyana.
The arrest comes a day after the end of the deadline that was given to Imran by the Punjab Caretaker government.
According to Mir, eight alleged “terrorists” were arrested while escaping from Lahore’s Zaman Park area on Thursday.
The detained terrorists were already identified and are involved in the attack on the Lahore Corps Commander House on May 9, he had said.
Mir stated that the eight alleged “terrorists” were being interrogated to gain information about what was happening inside and who was at Zaman Park.