New Delhi: Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan on Wednesday, May 17, said he feared he would soon be arrested as his residence in Lahore was surrounded by police, who are acting on the Punjab government’s order to arrest “30-40 terrorists” who are allegedly holed up there.
The move comes after the country’s Army said it would prosecute those who were involved in damaging military infrastructure – in the aftermath of Khan’s arrest on May 8 – under military laws. Those who are involved in the violence have been branded as terrorists, and several top PTI leaders have been detained for alleged involvement.
According to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, Punjab caretaker information minister Amir Mir said on Wednesday that around “30 to 40 terrorists” were “being sheltered” in Khan’s residence in Zaman Park, Lahore. He said they should be handed over within 24 hours.
Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) was in power in Punjab but dissolved the assembly in January this year as part of plans to pressure early general elections. It is now run by a caretaker government that was nominated by the rival Pakistan Muslim League (N) party.
The PTI, meanwhile, claimed that the Punjab government was planning to bring “unknown people” to Khan’s residence and arrest them, to “show we are harbouring delinquents”. No terrorists are holed up in the residence, party leaders said.
We request all media to be present in Zaman park to witness the raid that is being planned for tonight by police (supposedly)The plan is to bring unknown people inside Zaman park & stage their arrest to show we are harbouring delinquents.
— Senator Shibli Faraz (@shiblifaraz) May 17, 2023
Khan, meanwhile, said in an address, “I have just heard that 40 terrorists are hiding at my residence. Please do come here [but] in a civilised manner and don’t attempt to storm my residence. If 40 terrorists are present at my house, then my life is also in danger. Please carry out a search operation but tell me the names of terrorists and we will show you our entire house.”
Probably my last tweet before my next arrest .
Police has surrounded my house.https://t.co/jsGck6uFRj
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) May 17, 2023
He asked the government not to “fan this fire any further” by using the pretext of searching for terrorists to attack his house.
“There is still time. Talk and be wise. The only solution to this crisis is elections. Those who can make elections happen, I appeal to them save the country by holding elections,” Imran said in his address.
According to local media reports, all roads to Khan’s residence have been blocked and “policemen wearing bulletproof jackets armed with batons are present with their mobile vans.”
While many PTI leaders have rallied around Khan, others have quit the party for its alleged role in the protests when military and public property was destroyed.
May 9 was black day: Pak Army chief
In his first reaction to the events of the past week, Pakistan Army chief General Asim Munir said on Wednesday that all those responsible for “bringing shame to the nation on the Black Day of May 9” will be brought to justice and that such “orchestrated tragic incidents” would never be allowed again at any cost.
A press release issued by the military’s media wing Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said General Munir made the remarks during a visit to the Martyrs’ Monument in Sialkot.
He said nobody would be allowed to disrespect martyrs and monuments dedicated to them. “They are a source of inspiration and pride for the rank and file of the armed forces, law enforcement agencies, government officials and the people of Pakistan,” he said.
Rights body Amnesty International condemned plans to prosecute civilians under military laws, describing it as “purely an intimidation tactic, designed to crack down on dissent by exercising fear of an institution that has never been held to account for its overreach”. It said, “There are several provisions under ordinary criminal laws that can be used to prosecute vandalism and destruction of public property. The right to a fair trial, guaranteed by Pakistan’s constitution, is severely undermined by this move and cannot be justified. It must be struck down immediately.”
Imran Khan’s protection extended by high court
The Islamabad high court on Wednesday extended the protection it granted Khan against arrest until May 31. This means that the PTI chief cannot be arrested in any case by the police, but it is unclear if it applies to an arrest under military laws like the Pakistan Army Act and Official Secrets Act.
A two-judge bench comprising Justice Miangul Hasan Aurangzeb and Justice Saman Rafat Imtiaz heard the plea on Wednesday when the government sought time to provide details of the cases registered against Imran. The court adjourned proceedings until May 31 and extended protection to Khan until then.