Talks over Zaman Park search op deadlocked

Govt wants no household member on premises; Imran says follow LHC orders

Muhammad Shehzad May 19, 2023
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan speaking to reporters outside his Zaman Park residence in Lahore on Friday, May 19, 2023.


Deadlock persisted over the modalities for conducting a search operation of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan’s Zaman Park residence as the government team insisted that it would search the entire premises without any household member on the ground but the former premier sought the implementation of the Lahore High Court’s order.

The LHC, according to Imran who spoke to the media after the team left his residence, had permitted that "there will be one person from their (government) side and one from ours, along with a female officer".

However, following the visit of the team led by the Lahore commissioner, the authorities removed encroachments placed at Zaman Park.

Afterwards, the police officials deployed over there in case of any untoward situation were also called back.

The team of government officials, including Lahore Commissioner Muhammad Ali Randhawa, DCO Rafia Haider, DIG Police Operations Sadiq Ali Dogar and SSP Sohaib Ashraf, along with search warrants had entered Zaman Park and held a meeting with Imran to delineate the Terms of Reference (ToRs) for the search operation.

The team remained present inside the premises for quite a considerable period of time. However, they did not reach any agreement. This was confirmed by caretaker Punjab Information Minister Amir Mir as well the PTI chief.

Mir said the authorities would return today (Saturday) for the search operation in daylight.

During the day when the senior government officials reached Imran’s residence along with the search warrants, the PTI appreciated it.

On its official Twitter account, the PTI stated, “The people who came to the PTI chairman's house with warrants have been fully satisfied comfort, as we believe in the rule of law, so they have been given full cooperation.

“If on March 18, when the police stormed the gate without any warrant, if they had come in a legal way, the hatred between the police and the people would not have increased, and the rule of law would have prevailed in the country.”

However, in the evening while speaking to the media, Imran said, “I do not trust the caretaker Punjab government, as I fear that they will plant weapons and false evidence to implicate me in a fake case.”

On the team of government officials visiting his house, Imran said, “I told them to come and see that there is no wanted person here. But then they said that we want to carry out a search of your entire house.

“If you want to find wanted men or terrorists, why do you have to come and search my house? Have I committed a crime, or is there another reason that needs to be specified?"

He said, "I told them that I won't allow that. If there is anything that we permit, it will be along the lines of what the Lahore High Court ordered."

He said the LHC had permitted that "there will be one person from their side and one from ours, along with a female officer".

Read ‘PTI protest caused Rs145m damage to public property’

"This is what the LHC ordered, so that what happened last time is not repeated. [Last time] they claimed that they found weapons, damaged and stole things, then also claimed Kalashnikovs [were found]. That is why we do not trust them at all."

The PTI chairman said that the government was welcome to carry out a search of his residence if it ensured that it would be done according to the orders of the LHC.

“They (authorities) have now changed their stance, saying there are wanted men, not terrorists [at Zaman Park].

“You can label anyone wanted. And they have taken away 7,500 of our people on that basis. They have taken away our entire senior leadership.”

“They (authorities) said all household members would have to leave and then they will search [the residence].

“We will take this up in the court.”

The PTI chairman demanded evidence regarding his party’s involvement in the May 9 violence, saying that if anyone from the PTI was involved, “I will help [the police] catch them”.

“But this is not the case. All this is being done to crush the PTI. How is it possible that 7,500 people are arrested? There are videos of Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Yasmin Rashid where they are asking people to remain peaceful.”

Imran said, “These arrests are a crackdown against the PTI [based on] mala fide.

“This is not happening for enforcing the law in the country. All of it is happening to crush one party.”

The former premier said that the Pakistan Democratic Movement-led federal government was “scared of holding polls because they lost the by-elections despite having the support of the establishment and ECP”.

“Now, they are running away from elections and they are finding ways to pit Imran and the PTI against the army.

“And whatever has happened … they have used this for fueling the fire. But all this is just leading to Pakistan’s destruction.”

The PTI chairman said that the incumbent government would be charged under Article 6 for delaying elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

He said that despite all the difference in the Supreme Court, “all the judges agree on the point that elections should be held within 90 days”.

Also read Imran says army chief 'clearly has some problems with me'

Imran said, “A political party or leader is isolated when they do not have the support of the public.

“So presently, parties in the PDM are isolated.”

On the issue of military courts trying the PTI supporters, Imran said, “There can be no military courts in Pakistan. They lapsed in 2019 and can’t be established.”

Imran asked, “Which military installation was attacked? I only know about the Lahore corps commander’s house and two three other places.

“And on that, a complete investigation should be held and they [the culprits] should be punished.”

On the elections, Imran said, “Whenever elections are held, we will not have to run a campaign.

“Our members will only have to manage the polling day, and we will win.”

Imran said, “Everything that I own is on my name and in Pakistan. An NRO is taken by those who have money stashed abroad like Nawaz Sharif and Ishaq Dar.

“I don’t need an NRO. I will never leave Pakistan.”

In a message to “whoever is behind the crackdown against the 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 vote bank is over 70 per cent, it won’t matter who comes or leaves.”

Meanwhile, the Lahore police claimed to have arrested six more suspects involved in violent activities at military installations in the provincial capital on May 9 trying to flee Zaman Park. Four of them were involved in arson at the Askari Tower and two at Jinnah House.

Last night eight suspects fleeing Zaman Park were arrested. The arrested suspects have been identified as Bakht Alam, resident of Shangla; Mumtaz, resident of Mardan; Azizul Ghani, resident of Swat; Abdul Ghafoor, resident of Ichhra; Zohaib, resident of Shahdara; Ejaz, resident of Missri Shah; Nabil, resident of Shalimar; and Hanzala, resident of Sialkot.

The suspects were reportedly in contract with Ejaz Chaudhry and other PTI leaders. They had brought wooden clubs from Timber Market near Niazi Chowk.

Moreover at least 35 suspects involved in the attack on Shamdan police station have also been arrested.

The accused persons were taken into custody after identification using CCTV cameras.

The government of Punjab notified at least 10 joint investigation teams to probe the May 9 mayhem.

The first JIT included Lahore DIG Investigation Kamran Adil as convener and SSP Operations Sohaib Ashraf, SP AVLS Raza Zahid, ASP Taimoor Khan and Incharge Investigations Factory Area Muhammad Sarwar as members.

The second JIT has SSP Investigation Aoush Masood as convener and SP Investigations Model Town Shahzad Rafique Awan, SI Gulberg Ghulam Rasool, Inspector Zahid Saleem of PS Gulberg and SI Incharge Ghalib Market Furqan Mehmood as members.

Similarly, the other JITs also included senior police officers.

Each JIT will conduct investigation of each FIR registered on the day.

Meanwhile, the process of the investigation and geo-fencing continued on Friday also.


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