The Punjab government announced on Monday the formation of a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe the torture of police personnel allegedly at the hands of PTI workers in Lahore over the last week, and also cautioned that any future manhandling of law enforcers will result in an equivalent response.
The decision was announced by Punjab caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi at a press conference today.
Over the last few weeks, PTI workers and the Punjab police — aided by their Islamabad police counterparts and Rangers personnel — have been intermittently engaged in “pitched battles”.
The clashes first began when the Islamabad police arrived at former prime minister Imran Khan’s Zaman Park residence last week to arrest him in the Toshakhana case. However, it was met with resistance from the PTI chairman’s supporters. During the clashes, which were later stopped by the interference of courts, several policemen were injured.
On Saturday, heavy machinery was used by the Punjab police to break into the Zaman Park residence soon after the PTI chairman left for Islamabad to attend a hearing in the Toshakhana case.
PTI workers clashed with police personnel while trying to stop them from entering the former PM’s house when they reached there after getting search warrants from an anti-terrorism court (ATC), police claimed. Several PTI workers and policemen were injured in the clash.
Recalling these events in a press conference today, Naqvi expressed concern over protesters beating up police personnel and law enforcers, highlighting that the law enforcement personnel had exercised patience in handling these situations.
However, he warned, that the police will now respond to any mistreatment in a similar manner.
He also pointed out that the police had been unable to implement court orders as the personnel did not enter the [Zaman Park house] premises.
The chief minister criticised Imran’s conduct, stating that if he did not trust the police, the security he provided could be withdrawn.
Naqvi added that police personnel could not offer protection to someone who verbally abuses them at night and expects the same force to safeguard them.
Naqvi said he had given the provincial police chief full powers so that he could do what he deemed appropriate. “I won’t interfere in between,” he added.
He further said that no political party did not react the way it [PTI] did during its protest. “In every condition, we have to establish the writ of the government.”
CM Naqvi said the police had been told to take legal action wherever it was necessary.
“I assured them that if anyone resorts to violence, they will get a stern reply. Political activity is your right but no one can react this aggressively,” he said while referring to the protesters.
Naqvi said the provincial government had also decided to write a letter to the Election Commission of Pakistan about the matter.
Moreover, the caretaker chief minister announced compensation for policemen injured in the showdown with PTI protesters. “We will give Rs100,000 to each policeman who sustained minor injuries while Rs500,000 will be doled out to each who suffered major injuries.”
PTI focal person Hassaan Niazi arrested, confirms lawyer
PTI focal person on legal affairs and Imran’s nephew Hassaan Niazi was arrested from outside the Islamabad Judicial Complex on Monday afternoon, his lawyer told Dawn.com.
Niazi and several other PTI supporters were booked on Sunday for causing chaos outside the Federal Judicial Complex on Saturday.
Talking to Dawn.com, PTI lawyer Naeem Haider Panjhota said that Hassaan Niazi was granted bail today. “But the police forcefully picked him up and took him to the Ramna police station.”
Later, PTI leader Qasim Khan Suri shared a video on Twitter showing a police van in which he claimed Niazi was taken.
Later, PTI lawyer Faisal Chaudhry filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against Niazi’s arrest.
IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq presided over the hearing.
Chaudhry told the court that Niazi went to the anti-terrorism court for his bail. “The police abducted Hasan Niazi and no one knows in what case,” he said.
The PTI lawyer said the party had already raised concerns in the court regarding custodial torture.
“We are not even being informed where Hassaan Niazi has been kept,” Chaudhry said.
The court subsequently summoned the Ramna station house officer (SHO) and a representative of the Islamabad inspector general of police (IGP).
Upon their arrival, the chief justice asked the SHO if the police had picked Niazi up which the official confirmed.
He also submitted the copy of the first information report (FIR) against Niazi in the court, upon which the judge noted that the case was registered at 12pm today.
Justice Farooq questioned the IGP’s representative if Niazi was “presented before a magistrate”. “No law or rule has to be broken. All of the suspect’s rights have to be provided,” he said.
The judge also asked other questions from the representative regarding the medical checkup. “At 12pm you have arrested but have you still not presented [Niazi] before the magistrate?” he asked to which the representative said that the police would present Niazi in court tomorrow (Tuesday).
Meanwhile, Chaudhry said that there were concerns about “custodial torture by police” to which the judge said he would order the police not to violate any law.
“I guarantee that [Hassaan Niazi] will appear in the investigation,” the PTI lawyer said.
The FIR, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, was registered at the Ramna Police Station earlier today on the complaint of Assitant Sub-Inspector Khuban Shah under Sections 34 (common intention), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 324 (attempted murder), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 427 (mischief causing damage amounting to Rs50) and 506(2) (criminal intimidation) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The FIR said that the police had tried to stop Niazi’s vehicle but the driver tried to run them over. It said that upon being stopped, Niazi stepped out of the vehicle, verbally abused the police and threatened to shoot them.
Will approach international human rights organisations: Imran
Meanwhile, Imran Khan has said that the PTI will not only approach international human rights organisations against the arrest of his party workers.
“All our workers that have been jailed by this govt of criminals, today we will not only approach the courts but also int human right organisations. We will ask all PTI chapters abroad to approach their local elected reps & politicians to inform them of the fascism going on in Pak,” he tweeted.
In another tweet, the PTI chairman said that he would shortly expose how “I almost walked into a death trap and the plot to kill me in the (Islamabad) judicial complex”.
198 PTI protesters taken into custody
Separately, the Islamabad police have arrested 198 PTI supporters for allegedly attacking law enforcement personnel and vandalising state property in the capital city on March 18.
Hours-long clashes were reported between PTI workers and the capital police on Saturday after former prime minister Imran Khan arrived at the Federal Judicial Complex to attend a hearing in the Toshakhana case.
During the violent confrontation, 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.
In a series of tweets today, the Islamabad police said that 198 PTI protesters involved in arson and vandalism had been arrested, while raids were being conducted to nab others.
“The process of the identification of all the accused involved in the incident is underway with the help of cameras,” it said, adding that cases against the protesters had been registered at the Counter Terrorism Department and Golra police stations.
The police further said that 58 officers had been injured in the clashes. “Four police vehicles were burnt, nine vehicles were vandalised and 25 motorcycles were set on fire.”
All the miscreants involved in the violent acts will be brought to justice, it vowed.
Earlier, police sources — who quoted a report compiled by the department to assess damages — told Dawn that three buses of the Punjab police; 12 vehicles, including a jammer jeep and an armoured personnel carrier (APC) and motorcycles of the Islamabad police; six vehicles, including an APC and three pick-up vans of the Elite Force, and a police truck of the CTD sustained damages.
PTI supporters also smashed two buses of the Punjab Constabulary and a bus of Chakwal police. A pick-up van of the Islamabad police’s security division was also damaged in addition to a jammer vehicle.
A pick-up and a prison van were left with smashed windshields while a van of Lohi Bher police station and a bomb disposal squad vehicle was also torched. SHO Golra’s car was damaged.
The motor transport department of the police also saw its two prison vans smashed, while an APC van of the operation division was also wrecked.
According to a report submitted to the authorities concerned, an APC of the CTD was damaged, and three pick-ups were left with broken mirrors.
Additional reporting by Shakeel Qarar