• Giving 24-hour ultimatum, Punjab minister claims 30-40 ‘terrorists’ are holed up in PTI chief’s house
• 1,500 policemen equipped with heavy machinery surround Imran’s residence
LAHORE: A large number of police officials surrounded the residence of PTI chairman at Zaman Park after the Punjab caretaker government gave a 24-hour ultimatum to the former prime minister, asking Imran Khan to hand over dozens of ‘terrorists’ allegedly holed up at his house in the provincial capital or face police action.
According to late-night reports, at least 1,500 police officials armed with teargas and heavy machinery were advancing towards Zaman Park to encircle it from all sides by dividing the deployment into three security layers.
Elite police commandos and other trained personnel would lead the operation while Rangers were kept on high alert to control the law and order situation in case of clashes.
Police also blocked all roads leading to Zaman Park by making heavy deployment of force and erected barriers on Jail Road, The Mall, Allama Iqbal Road, and Dharampura, suspending all kinds of traffic to and from Zaman Park.
However, caretaker Information Minister Amir Mir said the operation would not take place before the lapse of 24-hour deadline at 2pm on Thursday (today).
As scores of special police vans, water cannons, prison vans, bulldozers, heavy machinery, teargas shells, and elite police force commandos encircled Zaman Park, there were reports that Imran Khan would also be arrested alongside the alleged “miscreants”, almost 40, hiding at his house.
Informed sources claimed there was a strong possibility that Mr Khan would also be arrested and would be tried along with other party leaders and workers under the Pakistan Army Act and Official Secrets Act in connection with attacks on military installations.
They claimed that the matter of Mr Khan’s arrest came under discussion at Tuesday’s National Security Committee meeting which endorsed the decision to try all ‘miscreants’ involved in attacks on military installations during May 9 violence.
They said the same decision was later conveyed to Punjab Inspector General Dr Usman Anwar to prepare the officials for the operation against the suspects at Zaman Park.
The IG summoned a meeting attended by senior police officers. The details of the meeting were restricted to police high-ups and key government officials due to ‘highly sensitive’ information. A source said the IG gave a nod to the operation, directing the officers to make the Elite Force commandos part of the action.
Increase in deployment
On Tuesday night, a heavy contingent of police was deployed near Mr Khan’s residence. The strength was increased manifold on Wednesday when hundreds of more personnel reached there to boost the number of policemen deployed there. The strength was increased to avert a possible stand-off between the PTI workers and the law enforcers as witnessed in March and last week when thousands of party supporters allegedly attacked the police, injuring more than two hundred police personnel.
‘30-40 terrorists’ at Zaman Park
At a press conference on Wednesday, Amir Mir claimed that ‘30 to 40’ alleged terrorists were hiding at Mr Khan’s residence giving the ousted premier an ultimatum of 24 hours to hand them over to police or face action.
“We have received an intelligence report that some 30 to 40 terrorists who were involved in attacking the military installations, especially Lahore Corps Commander House on May 9, are hiding at the residence of Imran Khan. We give an ultimatum of 24 hours to the PTI to hand them over to police or face stern action,” Mr Mir claimed.
PTI leader Hassaan Niazi, nephew of Imran Khan, was also hiding there as he was wanted in such attacks, and asked the PTI leadership to stop patronising alleged miscreants and immediately hand them over to police.
“Initial inquiry has proved that the miscreants who attacked the army installations have taken shelter in Zaman Park. The PTI has become a non-state actor like the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan after being stripped of power, which does not believe in upholding the Constitution and law, and challenges the writ of the state through mischief,” the caretaker minister added.
Mr Mir said Imran Khan had given a clear message to the workers to carry out arson attacks in case of his arrest. In the past, he repeatedly lashed out at the institutions responsible for national security and often incited his workers against the army, he alleged.
When asked why Punjab police did not stop the protesters/rioters, he said the government did not want bloodshed. “But if this time anyone tried to take the law into the hand he would be dealt with iron hands,” he claimed.
Replying to another question, the minister said this time given a free hand to deal with these rioters and arrest all the miscreants and their facilitators involved in the incidents of May 9.
Meanwhile, the Punjab government said the identification of 542 people and 305 vehicles and motorcycles had been completed through safe city cameras.
“Concrete evidence of conversations and messaging between miscreants and certain political leaders has emerged through geo-fencing,” the provincial government said and added these cases would be brought to logical conclusions.
The military top command announced trying the rioters under the Army Act. Mr Mir said all cases would not be tried in military courts. “Some cases will be tried in military courts and remaining in the anti-terrorism courts,” he added.
Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2023
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