ISLAMABAD: As former prime minister Imran Khan arrived at the Federal Judicial Complex (FJC) to attend hearing in the Toshakhana case, at least 25 people were injured, 30 automobiles, including motorbikes, and a police chowki was set on fire during hours-long clashes between the police and supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in the federal capital.
In violent clashes that mirrored the scene witnessed at Zaman Park earlier this week, a contingent of law enforcers and PTI supporters used anti-riot gear against each other with teargas used from both sides to push the opposing side back. The PTI used rocks against the police alongside petrol bombs to set their vehicles on fire.
The large crowd that descended on the judicial complex gathered on the call of PTI leadership which used social media to urge supporters to reach the judicial complex.
In response, as many as 4,000 personnel, including 700 from FC and 1,000 from the Punjab police, deployed in and around the complex to maintain law and order and stop the gathering from reaching the complex, they added.
Clashes between police, PTI supporters leave 25 injured; property, vehicles set on fire as Imran arrives for hearing
Besides, containers were also put on a service road adjacent to the judicial complex. Besides, barbed wires and barricades were also placed to cordon off the area, they said, adding that law enforcers, including the anti-riot team of police, were also deployed at the complex.
At 10:30am, the first physical confrontation of the day erupted between a group of lawyers and police. However, the police remained calm and did not react.
The PTI’s chief entered Islamabad around 1pm and the contingent of police deployed near the Islamabad toll plaza intercepted the gathering accompanying Mr Khan. The second physical confrontation between the law enforcers and the PTI workers took place near the toll plaza. The police retreated and the convoy moved on to G-13.
Another attempt was made at G-13 by the law enforcers to intercept the gathering but that too remained unsuccessful. At the G-11 traffic signal, another attempt by the police to stop the gathering of supporters remained an exercise in futility.
Official jammer vehicle refused
Besides, the officer in-charge deployed at the spot stopped a jammer vehicle escorting Mr Khan and offered an official jammer vehicle, but the security staff of Imran Khan refused this vehicle.
Subsequently, a pitched battle between the law enforcers and the PTI workers ensued, as both sides targeted each other with teargas and baton-charge.
Besides, the PTI horde encircled the law enforcers and attacked them with stones and teargas, possibly taken from the Gilgit police deployed on security duty of Imran Khan. For the police, it was a double whammy since the smoke from their teargas shells also made its way back to them due to strong wind. The police were eventually pushed back from G-11 to Mehrabadi.
More clashes erupted between the police and the PTI around the judicial complex. During the clashes, 25 motorcycles, four vehicles, including a bomb disposal vehicle of the capital police were set on fire, besides a Punjab police bus was also damaged.
The mob also set a police chowki on fire and during the confrontation over 25 officials were injured.
Later, the motorcade moved to the judicial complex where another attempt was made by law enforcers to intercept the gathering. This also resulted in a physical confrontation, with stones and gas being the primary weapons.
Imran at FJC
In the meantime, PTI Senator Shibli Faraz, along with court staff and police reached Mr Khan’s vehicle to mark his attendance. But due to the physical confrontation and the baton charge, the team failed to reach the PTI chief's vehicle. As he attempted to get to the vehicle, Senator Faraz was abused by an SP and manhandled.
During another attempt, a team comprising another SP of the police and court staff got Mr Khan’s signature on an attendance sheet attached to a judicial file of the court.
After getting the signature the court staff handed over the file to the SP as a safety measure; however, the SP along with the file “disappeared”.
During the clashes, the capital administration also imposed emergency in all state-run hospitals. About 30 injured – 25 policemen and five civilians – were shifted to the hospital for medical assistance. Around 6:00pm, Mr Khan left from the Judicial Complex, but after his departure, the surroundings of the complex remained a battlefield for more than half an hour.
The PRO for the police said the police and the PTI had reached an agreement that law and order in the capital should not be disturbed during the arrival of Mr Khan to the judicial complex. However, the PTI workers and supporters created a law and order situation and attacked the police, the spokesperson added. The police claimed a number of PTI workers involved in the law and order situation were arrested and cases were being registered against them.
Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2023