KARACHI: After former prime minister Imran Khan dodged the arrest by the Islamabad police at his Zaman Park house in Lahore, the ruling collation came down hard on the PTI chairman, calling him a “coward” for using supporters as a “shield” to evade imprisonment.

While addressing a ceremony in Karachi, Foreign Minister and PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari used the opportunity to attack Imran Khan and criticised the media for its response to the episode.

“There are other huge challenges this nation is facing; from poverty to floods and terrorism, but the media is worried about one ‘mouse’ and whether he’s at home or not,” the foreign minister said in harsh remarks.

PML-N Chief Organiser Maryam Nawaz took to social media and called out the PTI chief for his reluctance to surrender before the police. In a series of tweets, she brought up the “courage” of her father Nawaz Sharif who was “victimised” by the PTI government.

“Please lend some courage to Imran Khan,” she said in a tweet addressed to Nawaz Sharif. “Despite being innocent, the lion [Nawaz] had the courage to return to Pakistan with his daughter [Maryam] and turned himself in. He never used women as a shield to save his skin,” Ms Nawaz said while referring to the decision of the PML-N supreme leader to come back to Pakistan following his conviction in a corruption case.

Maryam Nawaz also called on Imran Khan to be ‘brave’ and surrender to the police while criticising the PTI workers for their “unruly behaviour”. She quipped Imran Khan “should not panic”. “Today the nation has recognised who is brave and who is a coward. Be brave and surrender yourself before the law,” Maryam Nawaz tweeted.

“This is not the first time the law has come knocking on the doors of those in power. Don’t panic, and don’t let your workers create chaos,” she added.

JUI-F leader Hafiz Hamdullah mocked the PTI chief while questioning his claims about “courage and the rule of law”. He said Imran Khan needed to appear before the court like other citizens and get his case proceeded as per the law if he is not involved in any theft.

Addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press Club, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Interior and Legal Affairs Attaullah Tarar called Imran Khan a “coward” and said now it was up to the courts to keep an eye on “illegal moves of the PTI chairman and his workers defying court orders and harassing the law enforcers”.

When asked about the hurdle being faced by the state to implement the orders as the Islamabad police looked helpless outside the residence of Imran Khan, Mr Tarar said that the government was only following the defined rules.

“Make no mistake, the moment the government decides to arrest him, it would not waste a single moment,” he said. “But there’s a legal course of any exercise.”

Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2023

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