Former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s car surrounded by supporters moves towards the Islamabad Judicial Complex amid teargas shelling by Islamabad police on March 18, 2023. — PTI Twitter
PTI Chairman Imran Khan on his way back to Lahore on Saturday. — PTI Twitter

Toshakhana case: Imran’s arrest warrants cancelled after PTI chief marks attendance amid chaos, clashes

No indictment as clashes between police, PTI workers mar court proceedings; hearing adjourned till March 30; police carry out operation in Zaman Park.
Published March 18, 2023

PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s arrest warrants in Toshakhana case were cancelled on Saturday as Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Zafar Iqbal allowed him to leave after marking his attendance due to clashes between Islamabad Police and PTI workers outside the Judicial Complex.

The hearing was adjourned till March 30 (Thursday) due to the turbulence and chaos witnessed today, with the judge ordering Imran to appear in personal capacity in the next hearing.

A correspondent at the scene confirmed those inside the courtroom had faced difficulties due to the effects of the teargas used by the police and the windows were pelted by stones as well.

Key developments

  • Judge cancels Imran’s arrest warrants and summons him on March 30
  • Judge allows Imran to go back after giving signature outside Judicial Complex
  • Police and PTI accuse each other of shelling
  • Sanaullah says ‘bomb-making’ material recovered from Zaman Park house
  • Police enter Zaman Park residence as structures in and outside premises dismantled
  • Ex-premier claims govt intends to arrest him and bar him from leading election drive, calls it a part of “London plan’

Meanwhile, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi told Ary News from the Islamabad High Court that “all legal process [for the signature] has been completed” and said that Imran was departing from the Judicial Complex.

Qureshi also strongly criticised the Punjab and Islamabad police forces for their actions against the PTI.

At 10:35pm, the party tweeted that Imran would reach Zaman Park shortly.

Later, the PTI said that Imran safely reached his Lahore residence.

As the PTI chief and his motorcade earlier reached outside the Islamabad Judicial Complex, he alleged that he was not being allowed to enter the court’s premises.

In an audio message released to the media, Imran said: “I am waiting outside the [judicial complex’s] door for 15 minutes and am fully trying to enter but they’ve done teargas [shelling] and erected checkpoints and it seems they don’t want that I reach here.”

Despite that, he reiterated that he was outside the complex and was attempting to enter it.

According to DawnNewsTV, a large number of party workers, who were accompanying the former prime minister, were attempting to escort him onto court premises, but due to security arrangements, they were not being allowed to.

The PTI leader was scheduled to appear before the court of ADSJ Iqbal to attend proceedings on a complaint filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for allegedly concealing details of gifts in his assets declarations.

Imran, who left his Lahore home a little after 8am, had warned in a video message that he was expecting an attempt to arrest him.

Pemra had banned television coverage of the Judicial Complex and political rallies.

Commenting on the day’s developments, President Dr Arif Alvi said: “Another day in life of Pakistan has passed without catastrophe. […] Narrow escape. Any major accident could have happened.”

The president called on all politicians to work together to take the country out of its current issues.

Meanwhile, PML-N Senior Vice President Maryam Nawaz earlier quipped at the PTI chief, saying he was a “jackal who is scared of getting arrested which is why he is refusing to come outside of his car.”

Imran summoned in personal capacity on March 30

As the court hearing began without the PTI chairman, ADSJ Iqbal said that no one should be under the impression that the matter has been put to rest if the time had passed by 3:30 pm.

“I am here if someone wants to appear before the court,” he said. At this, Imran’s counsel Advocate Khawaja Harris contended that the PTI chief was being stopped by security on his way to court.

“Shelling is being done,” he said. ADSP Iqbal replied by saying that he was ready to wait.

The election commission lawyer Amjad Parvez informed the court that he did not know what was going on outside the court.

“Has security actually stopped Imran outside or has he stopped there himself,” he said. “They know court hours began at 8:30 am in the morning”.

“Now he left Lahore at 8:30 then what can we do,” Parvez told the court.

The court took a break till Imran arrived inside the courtroom.

Meanwhile, the effects of teargas shelling outside the court on Imran’s convoy started reaching the courtroom.

As the hearing resumed, the ex-premier’s legal team submitted a plea on his behalf in court stating that Imran was present outside the judicial complex.

“He has been present outside for an hour,” it said.

The plea added that the police were shelling at him and preventing him to enter the court.

“Send your staff outside to accept my appearance,” Imran stated in the plea. “Send the Islamabad police a notice of contempt of court”.

At this, Judge Iqbal said: “Since you have submitted a plea, I can send a court official outside.”

“Go outside and bring Imran inside the premises along with his car,” the judge told a court official. “Tell the police to let the accused come inside according to the SOPs”.

During all this, a teargas shell hit a window of the courtroom. In order to reduce the effects of the teargas, the courtroom’s door was closed.

Later, the judge told the ECP lawyer that the hearing should take place. “But what should we do if the situation is like this?” ADSJ Iqbal asked.

At this, PTI lawyer Babar Awan contended that the court should send an official outside to record Imran’s attendance. He requested the court to exempt the PTI chairman from appearing before the court today.

“The hearing should be adjourned in light of the situation that has arisen,” Awan said.

Awan told the court that the situation was “messy” outside. “Take my word, give an exemption today”.

The court ordered to take Imran’s signature at the gate.

“Take his signatures at the gate, His attendance will be recorded,” Judge Iqbal said. “Today the hearing is actually not possible.”

“Leave everything, I’ll do something about the date,” he added. “Let the signatures be done then we can discuss further.”

Judge Iqbal further stated to take signatures from Imran and ask him to leave.

As the hearing resumed again, ADSJ Iqbal asked Advocate Harris about his views on “indictment”.

“Would you like to present your arguments today?” he said. At this, Advocate Harris replied saying: “No it is not possible today,” adding that “there will be arguments on the admissibility of the application before indictment.”

He further said that “a decision will be taken after the application has been heard.”

The hearing was adjourned for the third time till the court received Imran’s signatures.

Amid the situation, lawyer Intezar Panjotha informed the court that Imran’s chief of staff Shibli Faraz was “manhandled” by Nausherwan’s superintendent of police (SP). Faraz was subsequently presented in court and released after the judge ordered the police to do so.

After a while, SP Dr Sami Malik accompanied Faraz with the court file back to the courtroom.

As the hearing resumed again, ADSJ Iqbal asked, “Did the order sheet not return back?”

At this, SP Malik replied saying that Faraz had the order sheet.

Taking the rostrum, Barrister Gohar told the court that he went along with the SP and Faraz.

“I took the signatures from Imran Khan,” he said. “On our way back police started shelling at us and SP Malik took the file from me.”

“SP Malik is lying to the court right now,” Barrister Gohar said. “A video of the entire incident is available”.

SP Malik told the court that when they went to get the signatures, shelling, and stone pelting had started. “I even gave my handkerchief to Shibli Faraz”.

Deeming the court documents as “very important”, Judge Iqbal told SP Malik to go find them and bring them the court.

“They are a part of our judicial record,” the judge said. At this, SP Malik told the judge that he gave the file to Faraz and not him.

Barrister Gohar told the court that many people made a video of Imran signing all the documents.

When the hearing resumed again, SP Malik told the court that he went with Faraz despite being injured and the file went missing.

“Just leave it,” the judge remarked. “Tell me if the signatures were recorded”.

SP Malik replied saying he did not know if the documents were signed or not.

Advocate Harris intervened asking the court to record SP Malik’s statement. “He thinks his job is permanent. He has changed his statements thrice”.

SP Malik asked, “why will I lose the file deliberately?” At this Barrister Gohar said they had everything recorded on a video.

“Everyone chanted PTI slogans when the documents were signed,” he added. “Khan sahab had signed on all the documents”.

Consequently, the court directed SP Malik and Barrister Gohar to submit their written statements to the court.

“You both write down your statements and submit them to court”, Judge Iqbal said. “[I] will find a solution about the lost court documents,” he added.

ADSJ Iqbal then adjourned the hearing till March 30 and summoned Imran in his personal capacity again.

PTI workers and police clash

The day’s events were marred by clashes between the police and PTI workers.

The Islamabad police alleged that party workers had shelled the Judicial Complex and set fire to a police post.

It also shared footage of PTI workers allegedly committing vandalism at the Judicial Complex.

Later, it said that PTI protesters had set fire to a police vehicle.

In an update on the damage from the clashes, the police said nine officers were injured from pelting by PTI supporters while over 25 motorcycles were set alight.

It added that a police post and trees were also set ablaze and police forces were attacked with petrol bombs and tear gas shells.

In turn, the PTI also accused the police of shelling Imran’s vehicle.

When Imran’s convoy was outside the courts in sector G11, PTI Senator Ejaz Chaudhary tweeted that “intense shelling on IK car right now!”

‘London plan’

Earlier in the day, a large contingent of the Punjab Police raided the Zaman Park residence in Lahore, with power shovels in tow, which they used to dismantle the various structures, bunkers and barricades erected outside the site.

“Meanwhile, Punjab police have led an assault on my house in Zaman Park where Bushra Begum is alone,” Imran said in a tweet soon after the operation began.

“Under what law are they doing this? This is 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.”

Later in the day, Imran termed the “assault” on his residence a “contempt of court” and said he was going to take up the issue with the judiciary.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah told Geo News later that the operation was over and alleged that contraband was discovered.

A video posted by PTI, which could not independently verify showed police attacking workers inside what the party said was the residence.

A separate video posted by an activist showed a power shovel smashing through what appeared to be the front gate to Imran’s Zaman Park house, following which police personnel can be seen entering the premises.

DawnNewsTV’s correspondent at the scene confirmed that the gates were dismantled by the excavator.

Police breach Imran’s Zaman Park residence

A DawnNewsTV correspondent said Punjab police personnel removed barricades from the entrance of Imran’s Zaman Park residence and entered the premises. The police were reportedly met with resistance from PTI workers from inside, which resulted in a baton charge.

Some activists were reportedly taken into custody.

The TV channel also reported that the personnel also uprooted camps erected inside the premises.

It is worth noting that on Friday, the Lahore High Court granted a request made by Punjab IGP Dr Usman Anwar to search Imran’s Zaman Park residence as part of an investigation into attacks on police teams.

Sanaullah says ‘no-go area’ outside Zaman Park residence cleared

Talking to Geo News, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah provided an update on the situation at Zaman Park, alleging that the police were fired upon from inside the residence. He went on to say that a “no-go area” had been created outside Imran’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 a cache of explosives, petrol bombs and bomb-making materials was recovered from the site.

When asked if the government intended to arrest Imran, 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 accused Imran of pushing the country into anarchy and urged the courts to take notice of the situation.

He maintained that the police were unarmed, and clarified that they had not entered the area where Imran’s wife was present.

‘I know they want to arrest me’

Earlier, in a video message, Imran 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.

“I am going to court despite knowing they’ll arrest me because I believe in the rule of law,” he said in a video message posted on Twitter.

Imran mentioned being delayed due to an accident while en route to an Islamabad court and claimed that a premeditated plan to arrest him was in place, alleging that it was part of a larger “London plan” orchestrated by former PM Nawaz Sharif.

Heavy police presence outside Imran’s Zaman Park residence

In Lahore, a correspondent saw a heavy contingent of police gathering outside the residence of Imran in Zaman Park. Law enforcement personnel, armed with batons, parked a police van near the location.

In addition, two power shovels and a water cannon were brought to the area. According to DawnNewsTV, the police began to dismantle structures and barricades erected outside the residence.

Several roads leading to the area were cordoned off with containers and the entry of vehicles and pedestrians has been restricted.

A large number of PTI workers, some carrying batons, also gathered on Canal Road near the residence.

Taking to Twitter, Imran claimed that the siege of Lahore was not about ensuring his appearance in a court but aimed at imprisoning him and preventing him from leading the PTI’s election campaign.

Shortly after, the PTI posted a video of Imran waving to his supporters from inside his vehicle in Sheikhupura.

And in one video shot from inside a vehicle, a few party supporters could be seen throwing flower petals at Imran’s convoy from a bridge above the Motorway.

Meanwhile, Islamabad police issued a traffic advisory, stating that due to tight security measures around the Judicial Complex in G-11, citizens might face difficulty in traffic movement, leading to inconvenience.

The police advised commuters to choose alternate routes and also requested citizens to avoid unnecessary travel, considering the prevailing law and order situation.

It also said an emergency has been declared in hospitals in the capital.

Stringent security measures were put in place outside the judicial complex in Islamabad’s G-11, where Imran was expected to arrive by noon. A large contingent of police was deployed to the area to take charge of security.

Security personnel arrive at the judicial complex ahead of Imran’s arrival. — Photo provided by Umer Burney
Security personnel arrive at the judicial complex ahead of Imran’s arrival. — Photo provided by Umer Burney

PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry took to Twitter to call for the immediate opening of internal routes in Islamabad and urge the country to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution.

Chaudhry expressed concern over the state of the judicial system, which he claimed had been turned into a battleground. Additionally, he condemned the police’s use of “terror tactics in the guise of administrative measures”, stating that a writ petition is being urgently filed in the IHC.

PTI petitions against denial of entry to judicial complex

Shortly after Chaudhry’s tweet, the PTI submitted a petition to the sessions court challenging the alleged denial of entry to lawyers, party members, media personnel and Imran’s security officials into the premises of the judicial complex.

Imran’s counsel Babar Awan submitted a petition to ADSJ Iqbal after security personnel allegedly barred several individuals from the complex.

Awan claimed that he was sensing a “mischievous plan of the government” behind the move.

Imran has left for the court from Lahore and was expected to arrive soon, according to Awan. He asserted that there was no legal justification for the ban on entry of lawyers and media personnel into the open court and that it was not a “war zone” where PTI leaders needed to be barred from entry.

He urged the judge to issue orders to the administration to allow PTI leaders into the premises.

Hours later, Awan told reporters that the convoy of the PTI chief had allegedly been prevented from entering Islamabad.

He said that their legal team was present in the Islamabad High Court, where they had filed a request regarding the matter.

Furthermore, Awan asserted that any attempt to apprehend Imran Khan would be legally unjustifiable.

Section 144 in Islamabad

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.

In a tweet, the capital police said a traffic plan had been issued, and citizens were advised to avoid unnecessary movement towards the areas of G-11 and G-10.

“Chief commissioner Islamabad has directed citizens to cooperate with the authorities and avoid unnecessary movement to ensure the smooth implementation of the traffic plan.”

In the early hours of Saturday, PTI leader Asad Umar tweeted that Section 144 had been imposed in Islamabad, claiming mobile networks were also instructed to shut down their operations in most of the city.

In his tweet, he questioned the government’s motives, asking what illegal action they were planning for the day.

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.

The Chief Commissioner Office Islamabad issued a notification declaring Court No 1 Judicial Complex at G-11 as the venue for the hearing of the case filed by the district election commissioner against Imran, terming it a “one-time dispensation”.

In the last hearing on Thursday, the court rejected Imran’s plea seeking the suspension of non-bailable arrest warrants issued for him.

Security personnel stand guard outside the judicial complex in capital’s G-11 ahead of Imran’s arrival. — Photo by Umer Burney
Security personnel stand guard outside the judicial complex in capital’s G-11 ahead of Imran’s arrival. — Photo by Umer Burney

ADSJ Iqbal had passed the order while hearing the ECP reference seeking criminal proceedings against Imran for concealing details of Toshakhana gifts.

However, the IHC had on Friday suspended non-bailable arrest warrants issued for Imran, providing him with a chance to appear before the trial court on Saturday (today).

During yesterday’s hearing, Imran’s lawyer Khawaja Haris submitted an undertaking by his client, assuring it that the PTI chief would appear in court on March 18.

Imran’s legal battle

The sessions court was set to indict Imran in the reference on Feb 28, but his lawyer had requested the judge that he be exempted from the hearing because he had to appear in several other courts. His indictment was deferred multiple times before.

The judge had subsequently issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Imran and instructed the police to present him in court by March 7. The PTI chief managed to dodge the arrest and later approached the IHC for the cancellation of the warrants.

The IHC, while granting some relief to Imran, had told him to appear in the sessions court by March 13, but the former prime minister once again skipped the hearing. Resultantly, ADSJ Iqbal had on Monday re-issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Imran and directed the police to bring him to court by March 18 (today).

However, when the police reached Imran’s Zaman Park residence in Lahore to arrest him on Tuesday, they were met with stiff resistance, leading to two-day pitched battles between PTI supporters and law enforcement agencies. The clashes ultimately subsided after the courts intervened on Wednesday.

That same day, the PTI also challenged the latest arrest warrants issued for Imran in the IHC. It rejected the plea and directed the PTI chief to submit an undertaking to the trial court which states he would attend the hearing on March 18.

Upon submitting the undertaking, the sessions court remarked said the warrants could not be suspended on the basis of an undertaking.

Toshakhana case

The reference, which alleges that Imran had not shared details of the gifts he retained from the Toshaskhana (during his time as the prime minister) and proceeds from their reported sales, was filed by lawmakers from the ruling coalition last year. On October 21, the ECP had concluded that the former premier had indeed made “false statements and incorrect declarations” regarding the gifts.

The Toshakhana is a department under the Cabinet Division that stores gifts given to rulers and government officials by heads of other governments and foreign dignitaries. According to Toshakhana rules, gifts/presents and other such materials received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division.

The watchdog’s order had said Imran stood disqualified under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution.

Subsequently, the ECP had approached the Islamabad sessions court with a copy of the reference, seeking proceedings against Imran under criminal law for allegedly misleading officials about the gifts he received from foreign dignitaries during his tenure as the prime minister.

Additional reporting by Shakeel Qarrar.