No ‘consensus on SOPs’ for Imran’s house search

Published May 20, 2023
LAHORE: Commissioner of Lahore division Mohammad Ali Randhawa (centre) and other officials of the Punjab government arrive at PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s residence, on Friday.—M. Arif / White Star
LAHORE: Commissioner of Lahore division Mohammad Ali Randhawa (centre) and other officials of the Punjab government arrive at PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s residence, on Friday.—M. Arif / White Star

• Punjab govt decides to devise own strategy to arrest ‘arsonists’; six more suspects held
• PTI chief says search should be done as per LHC guidelines
• Police mount vigilance around ex-PM’s Banigala residence

LAHORE: The Punjab government on Friday decided to devise “its own ways” to arrest alleged arsonists holed up at the Zaman Park residence of PTI Chairman Imran Khan soon after its three-member team comprising senior district administration and police officers failed to reach ‘consensus SOPs’ with the party leadership for searching the house.

Separately, the former prime minister said he did not allow the government team to enter his residence, insisting that search should be conducted as per the guidelines set by the Lahore High Court: one person from each side.

Before the visit of the team, headed by Lahore Division Commissioner Mohammad Ali Randhawa and comprising SSP (operations) Sohaib Ashraf and Lahore Deputy Commissioner Rafia Haider, to Mr Khan’s residence, conflicting reports emerged whether the police were going to launch a search operation or just visiting the house to hold negotiations with the former prime minister.

The confusion deepened when nearly 400 police personnel were put on alert for escorting the government team to the residence of Mr Khan.

However, Punjab’s caretaker Information Minister Aamir Mir later explained that the team had “just visited” the residence of Imran Khan to devise SOPs to carry out a search operation. He told a news channel about the deadlock persisted between the visiting team and the PTI chairman, saying both sides couldn’t reach any consensus in this respect.

He said the government team had handed over a list of nearly 2,200 alleged miscreants of the PTI wanted by the Punjab police for carrying out attacks on military installations, including Corps Commander House in Lahore. PTI’s senior leaders, including Azam Swati, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Hassan Niazi, Zubair Niazi, Hammad Azhar, Fawad Chaudhry and Asad Umar were also among them, he claimed.

Mr Mir said the team provided “inevitable evidences” to Imran Khan, including geo-fencing and call detail records (CDRs) of those whose locations were detected at his Zaman Park residence. He said the PTI chairman was informed by the visiting team that some suspects arrested in the May 9 violence cases confessed that they had also planned an attack on the Gujranwala Corps Commander House.

As the deadlock persisted and no agreement was reached on search of Imran Khan’s residence, the caretaker interior minister said, the Punjab government would devise its “own ways” in this regard.

Sources in the police said the PTI chief raised objections to the government team’s proposed plan to search his residence where some women also reside. He, however, agreed to remove the encroachments, including protest camps, tents and speed-breakers outside his residence.

10 JITs formed

Earlier in the day, the Punjab government formed 10 joint investigation teams (JITs) to probe separately the cases registered under antiterrorism and other heinous charges against the arsonists following the May 9 violence in Lahore.

The Punjab Home Department issued notifications of the JITs constituted on the recommendations of IG Dr Usman Anwar.

The JITs have been tasked with conducting and finalising investigations into the cases registered with various police stations of the city, including Racecourse, Sarwar Road, Gulberg, Model Town, Shadman and Naseerabad.

Lahore DIG (investigation) Kamran Adil will lead the JIT probing the high-profile case of attack on the Corps Commander House. Its other members included Lahore SSP (investigation) Sohaib Ashraf, DSP Raza Zahid, ASP Taimoor Khan and Inspector Mohammad Sarwar.

Similarly, Lahore SSP (investigation) Dr Anoosh Masood Chaudhry will head five JITs formed to investigate the cases registered in Gulberg and other parts of the Model Town police division where major incidents of violence, including the attack on Askari Tower, took place.

Lahore Cantt Division SP (investigation) Arslan Zahid will lead the JIT investigating two cases registered with local police stations, while the Civil Lines Division SP would lead the JIT constituted to probe the cases registered with Racecourse and other police stations in connection with the May 9 attacks/incidents.

‘PTI workers cannot be tried in military courts’

Former PM Imran Khan on Friday night asserted that PTI workers cannot be tried in military courts because firstly the law relating to them lapsed in 2019 and secondly no military installation came under attack; only the Crops Commander House was “violated”.

“I have been condemning May 9 violence from the day one and so did all leadership of the party. I condemned it right in front of the chief justice of Pakistan when I was told about it and I still do with a belief that our workers are not trained like that,” the PTI said while talking to media outside his Zaman Park residence. He demanded an independent inquiry to identify the people involved in the attack on the Crops Commander House.

“Today, a government delegation came and wanted to get house completely vacated and searched, which we did not allow. I am ready to allow house search, but only on the lines Lahore High Court ruled: nominate one person from each side, accompanied by a female, and search the house. I fear if allowed the way the government team wanted to carryout search, it can feign recovery of anything as police did last time. Let the search happen as per guidelines set by the LHC and I have no objection. But certainly not the way the government wants,” a determined Imran Khan insisted.

“Firstly, I was told that terrorists are hiding here. Today, I was told they are wanted, not terrorists. Since the PTI is a peaceful political party, they [police] can share the names of those wanted men with us and the party would help police nab them.

Mr Khan said the government team wanted to arrest eight PTI leaders, but he sought concrete evidence from it and promised that he would himself present them to police.

“However, on the other hand, the PTI is on the wanted list now. They [police] have already jailed over 7,500 workers and list is getting longer by the day. The party is still ready to help police catch them. We are offering with a belief that no PTI workers could be involved in the kind of arson happened on May 9,” Mr Khan said. He vented his anger on what is happening, saying that this is not law but a reign of terror unleashed to crush the PTI.

The PTI is being pitted against the army under a well-planed conspiracy and results may not be good for the country, the former premier warned.

He denied that any kind of (political) dialogue was going on, as instructed by the courts. “The PTI has never refused dialogues as long as they are constructive and constitutional. But, right now no such thing is happening.”

Six more suspects arrested

The Lahore police claimed on Friday to have arrested six more suspects from Zaman Park when they were fleeing the residence of Imran Khan. Lahore Capital City Police Officer Bilal Siddique Kamyana said the police arrested them in connection with the May 9 violence cases lodged in various police stations of the city. Four of them were involved in attacks on Askari Tower and two on the Lahore Corps Commander House. He said that so far 14 suspects have been arrested.

Banigala vigilance

The capital police have mounted vigilance in and around the Banigala residence of PTI chief Imran Khan in Islamabad to keep an eye on activities of “people” residing there.

A police officer told Dawn that a contingent of the capital police had been sent to Banigala on Thursday to monitor the situation and activities of people living there. The officer said, adding that a few police officials also went closer to the main gate of the house, but did not talk to anyone.

Later, the police contingent observed and checked the presence of people and activities in the surrounding areas of the house and roads leading to it, the officer said, adding that findings of the visits were shared with the senior command.

Meanwhile, Senator Shibli Faraz, chief of staff to the PTI chairman, strongly condemned the Islamabad police for “raiding” the Banigala residence of Mr Khan and harassing his security guards and staff unnecessarily. He police should demonstrate some civility and respect the law or else the party would approach the court against the IG police.

Munawer Azeem in Islamabad also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2023



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