Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan evaded arrest once again on Sunday after a team of the Islamabad police failed to take him into custody in Lahore over non-bailable arrest warrants issued for his repeated failure to attend proceedings in the Toshakhana case.
According to a series of posts on Twitter, the Islamabad police said a team had been dispatched to Lahore to arrest the former prime minister. Warning that action would be taken against anyone who tried to obstruct the arrest, it said Khan would be shifted to Islamabad in accordance with the warrant, as all citizens were equal before the law. After reaching Khan’s home, police said he was “evading” arrest, adding that the officer leading the team had searched Khan’s room but he “was not present there.”
While the police were seeking Khan’s whereabouts, the PTI urged its supporters to gather at Zaman Park, where they resisted police, chanting slogans against them while brandishing sticks and slingshots. After several hours, the team returned to Islamabad following assurances from Khan’s chief of staff, Shibli Faraz, that the PTI chairman was “not available” but would comply with legal processes and attend the Toshakhana hearing on March 7 (Tuesday).
However, Faraz’s assurances might have landed him in trouble. Shortly after the team left, Khan emerged from Zaman Park to address his supporters, prompting police to warn that “action would be taken against [Shibli Faraz] for misrepresentation” over the whereabouts of the PTI chief.
In his address, the PTI chief lamented the attempt to take him into custody, adding that his lawyers would write a letter to Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial explaining threats to his life seeking court appearances via video-link. “I am being called to appear before the courts in farcical cases like a terrorism case with regard to a protest outside the Election Commission of Pakistan office while I was at my home,” he said, noting he had been charged in around 74 cases. “I appeared before the LHC [Lahore High Court] and courts in Islamabad but no security was provided to me,” he claimed.
Referring to the Toshakhana case, he said the proceedings should be televised. “If proceedings of the Toshakhana case are aired on TV, people will know that Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari are the real dacoits, and the only person who did not do anything against the law will turn out to be Imran Khan,” he claimed, reiterating that he feared another attempt on his life so long as Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and a military officer he describes as “Dirty Harry” were not removed from their posts.
Alleging that “Dirty Harry” was a “psychopath” for his alleged torture of PTI leaders, Khan claimed a “fourth” person was also involved, but did not provide any specifics. He also reiterated allegations of former Army chief Gen. (retd.) Qamar Javed Bajwa being “corrupt.”
Mere hours after refusing to even meet police, the PTI chairman alleged that his party no longer feared arrests after its Jail Bharo movement—which saw less than 500 party leaders and workers courting arrest in more than a week—adding that he had only called it off in light of a Supreme Court ruling directing elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa within 90 days of the dissolution of the assemblies “with the barest minimum deviation.”
As per routine, Khan also slammed the prime minister and PMLN Senior Vice-President Maryam Nawaz, claiming they had absolved their “corruption” after coming into power.
While some PTI leaders, including Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, alleged to journalists outside Zaman Park that the government wanted to “create unrest” by arresting Khan, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah rubbished any involvement in Sunday’s events.
Speaking with journalists after an event, he said the government could have arrested Khan last month when the warrant was issued but had no interest in it. The police, he maintained, were only following the directions of the court and would now inform it that the PTI chief had not cooperated with them.
The PTI, after Khan’s speech, sought to secure bail for the former prime minister at the Lahore High Court, but as the court was not open over the weekend, returned unsuccessfully.