‘Utterly stupid’: Journalists, lawyers react to showdown at Zaman Park

Journalist Zarrar Khuhro says police action proved "clear grounds being manufactured for delaying elections".
Published March 15, 2023

It’s been over 24 hours since the Islamabad Police, flanked by several units of the Punjab Police, showed up at PTI chief Imran Khan’s residence in Lahore’s Zaman Park to arrest him.

Television channels have broadcast live to the world the chaotic scenes around the former premier’s residence, with law enforcers desperately trying to enter the home, but being thwarted each time by diehard PTI supporters, who have camped outside the entrance.

Videos shared on social media as well as broadcast on TV showed police using water cannons, firing tear gas and charging at PTI supporters with batons in a bid to disperse them.

The protesters, who number in the hundreds, have refused to budge, retaliating with sticks and pelting stones at the law enforcers, who now include the Punjab Rangers. Officials say at least 54 police personnel, including Islamabad DIG Operations Shahzad Nadeem Bukhari, have been injured in the unrest.

So how difficult is it to arrest one man? And why is the PTI trying to prevent his arrest? Pakistani Twitter, as always, has its own theories.

‘State within a state’

Lawyer Reema Omer tweeted that there was no moral or legal justification for “Imran Khan not appearing in court and repeatedly evading arrest”. She added that the PTI leader’s actions were yet another attempt at creating a “state within a state” that could lead the country into civil war.

Not everyone agreed with her though. Journalist Atika Rehman spoke for everyone when she said she’d lost count of the number of times the state had tried to arrest Imran and failed.

Meanwhile, journalist Mubashir Zaidi tweeted that the PTI chief had lost the opportunity to stand tall as a politician by not coming out and presenting himself for arrest. “Political leaders lead from the front, not take human shields like cult leaders,” he wrote.

On the other hand, journalist Sahar Habib Ghazi expressed surprise at journalists and analysts who “largely ignore or minimise Khan’s concern that he’ll be killed in custody — his reason for not giving himself up for arrest”.

“Pakistani politics is back to the 90s — divided, hateful, vengeful, run by vendettas & rhetoric, serving the most powerful who turned land, housing societies & private industries into an untaxed cash cow,” she wrote.

Anchorperson Kamran Khan also termed the strategy to arrest Imran “utterly stupid”. He added that law enforcers’ actions were providing Imran “non stop coverage [from] Lahore to Los Angeles”.

Journalist Zarrar Khuhro suggested that the police action proved that “clear grounds [were] being manufactured for delaying elections”.

“If elections are delayed beyond constitutionally decreed limits, as decided in SC judgement, then you have no right to talk of parliament, process or to condemn violations of that process in the future,” he warned.

Anchorperson and columnist Arifa Noor termed it “our collective failure” that there were so many incidents in which the “state faces it’s own people in a violent show down”.

Lawyer Asad Rahim, meanwhile, took exception to the use of the the term “human shields” for PTI supporters by some commenting on the episode.

“… considering how the term ‘human shields’ is used by neo-Nazi hacks to justify state violence against defenceless civilians — often in war zones — the usual suspects in Pakistan may want to think twice before picking up language that reveals too much about themselves.”

Header image: Screengrab from Twitter video posted by Musa Virk/ Reuters