Police unable to arrest Imran Khan for more than 15 hrs

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LAHORE: For more than 15 hours, PTI workers engaged the Islamabad police — aided by their Punjab counterparts and later Rangers personnel in pitched battles that continued late into the night with no signs of relenting. So far, the police have suffered around 30 casualties during the clash, while at least 15 PTI men have been detained.

In the latest video posted by the PTI on its official Twitter handle, the party claimed that the police had started tear gas shelling at Imran’s residence once again.

Separately, in a series of tweets, Imran said that after a day of facing tear gas, cannons with chemical water, rubber bullets and live bullets, “we now have Rangers taking over and are now in direct confrontation with the people”.

“My question to the establishment, to those who claim they are ‘neutral’: Is this your idea of neutrality, Rangers directly confronting unarmed protestors & leadership of the largest political party when their leader is facing an illegal warrant & case already in court & when govt of crooks trying to abduct & possibly murder him?” he asked.

In another tweet, the PTI chief claimed that the real intent of the authorities behind the entire episode was to “abduct and assassinate” him.

“Clearly arrest claim was mere drama because the real intent is to abduct & assassinate. From tear gas & water cannons, they have now resorted to live firing.

“I signed a surety bond last evening, but the DIG refused to even entertain it. There is no doubt of their mala fide intent,” he said.

Amid calls from the party to yet again gather at Zaman Park, Imran also addressed his supporters in the early hours of Wednesday and said more attempts to arrest him were underway.

Speaking in a video message, Imran likened the day’s events to the situation in Illegally Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

“The way police attacked our people, there is no example of this. What is the reason for attacking a small number of people like this?”

Imran said that to prevent any more chaos, he had given an undertaking to the Lahore High Court Bar Association president who then attempted to forward it to the DIG.

However, the Islamabad DIG did not meet the LHCBA president, he added.

“According to Section 76 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, if this surety bond is given to the arresting officer, then he can’t arrest [me],” Imran said.

The PTI chief said that the DIG had no reason to not accept the undertaking and pointed to ill intentions. “This is part of the London plan and an agreement has been signed there to put Imran in jail, make the PTI fall and finish all cases against Nawaz Sharif,” Imran alleged.

He, however, stopped short of making any announcement.

Meanwhile, at a late-night meeting summoned by the Punjab interim chief minister to take stock of the security situation in the provincial capital, it was decided to make another bid to detain the PTI chief and wrap up the operation before the morning.

In order to set the plan in motion, fresh units of police and Rangers took positions on The Mall in the early hours of Wednesday. Soon, a few prison vans followed, along with Rescue 1122 vehicles.

As the date shifted to the ominous ides of March, the city was abuzz that the police high-ups have realised the “mistake” of paddling too softly on Tuesday, compromising the entire operation. “The next effort, designed to be strong and brisk, may come any time during the night, but it will come for sure,” one of the Punjab officials said.

The operation to ‘execute arrest warrants’ issued by a court in Islamabad started on Tuesday afternoon, when policemen made their way towards the residence of Imran in an armoured personnel carrier.

Led by Islamabad DIG Shahzad Nadeem Bukhari, police used water cannons and teargas to disperse party supporters who resisted. The PTI workers, however, responded with stones.

The police team was determined to complete the operation. DIG Bukhari, who was subsequently injured, expressed in clear terms, “We are here to arrest Imran Khan and it will be done today at all costs.”

In a video message released yesterday, Imran while sensing the inevitability of his arrest released a video message, advising his supporters to continue the struggle for “real freedom” regardless of his “arrest or death”.

Later, in an interview with BBC Urdu released after midnight, Mr Khan referred to the attempts to arrest him – for which he was ready – saying that it seemed the alleged promises made to Nawaz Sharif by the establishment were being kept.

According to the former premier, he did not understand why the establishment and the army chief were “backing the PDM government” even though it was damaging the reputation of the state institution.

He added that the PDM would not last a single day without the crutches of the establishment. The ex-PM said there were no attempts to get in touch with the current top brass of the army, adding that doors for talks were, however, always open.

The events in Zaman Park did not escape the notice of Imran’s supporters across the country, and several cities saw protests by PTI workers.

In Islamabad, at least four policemen were injured and over two dozen supporters of the former ruling were detained after protests erupted in several parts of the federal capital, resulting in logjams across the city.

On the call of Imran Khan, the PTI workers took to the streets in Sahiwal, Okara, Sargodha, Multan, Muzaffargarh, Bahawalpur, DG Khan, Rawalpindi, and Faisalabad. There were reports of some minor scuffles between the police and the PTI supporters.

A large number of PTI workers and supporters also took to the streets across Sindh, particularly Karachi, to stage demonstrations at more than a dozen key road links and traffic intersections.

The supporters converged in multiple cities across Punjab to express solidarity with their party chief. Agitations were reported in Gujranwala, Hafizabad, Mandi Bhauddin, Sialkot, Narowal, and the adjoining districts of Lahore, including Sheikhpura and Kasur.

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