PTI supporters, police clash over Imran’s arrest in graft case
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s security forces and supporters of ex-PM Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) clashed Tuesday as a large police contingent reached the 70-year-old party chief’s home in Lahore to arrest him in a corruption case following a sessions court’s order.
At noon, Islamabad police that have been in Lahore since Monday reached Imran’s Zaman Park residence to implement the court’s orders in the Toshakhana (state gift depository) scandal—the sole case in which his arrest warrants are not suspended.
The case is related to charges that the PTI chairman had sold off state gifts and concealed assets when he was PM (August 2018 to April 2022). Home minister Rana Sanaullah said Imran would be arrested in accordance with the court’s directives. Imran wasn’t taken into custody till the time this report was filed.
Almost an hour after their arrival, the federal and provincial police opened a water cannon and fired tear gas shells to disperse PTI supporters that had gathered outside Imran’s home and some were seen throwing stones at the policemen.
Video footage shared on social media showed PTI workers—carrying water bottles and their faces covered with wet cloth to dilute the sting from tear gas—jostling with police. PTI also shared a video of gas shells being fired inside Imran’s home.
As clashes broke out, Imran asked his supporters to come out for their rights, while his party moved the Islamabad high court in a bid to suspend the lower court’s order. The HC fixed PTI’s plea for hearing Wednesday.
In a video message on Twitter, Imran said: “They think that after I am arrested, the nation will fall asleep. You have to prove them wrong.”
Addressing his supporters, he said: “If something happens to me and I am sent to jail or if I am killed, you have to prove that you will struggle without Imran Khan and not accept the slavery of these thieves and of the one person who has been making decisions for the country.”
Following his call, PTI workers staged protests across major cities, including Karachi, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Vehari, Peshawar, Quetta, and Mianwali. Scores of policemen and PTI workers were wounded as the protests turned violent at some places.
Authorities have suspended internet and mobile services near Imran’s house. Local TV stations have also stopped broadcasting from the area.
President Dr Arif Alvi said he was “deeply saddened” by Tuesday’s events. “Unhealthy revenge politics. Poor priorities of a government of a country that should focus on the economic misery of the people,” he said. “Are we destroying the political landscape? Am concerned about the safety and dignity of Imran Khan like that of all politicians,” he said.
PTI vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the leadership is ready to find out a “possible way out” to avert bloodshed. He asked police not to “worsen the situation” and talk to the party’s leadership.
“Show me the warrant. I will first read and understand it. Then, I will speak to Imran Khan and my lawyers,” he said.