Lahore, Mar 16 (PTI) As normalcy returned to Lahore's Zaman Park after scuffles between security personnel and workers of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, former premier Imran Khan's supporters placed shipping containers outside the entrance of his house and equipped themselves with clubs and slings to protect him from any further police action.
Although the Rangers and police have halted the operation to arrest the 70-year-old former cricketer-turned-politician till Friday at the Lahore High Court's direction, a heavy contingent of police remained stationed on all roads leading to his residence.
The authorities have suspended the internet service in the Zaman Park area in order to stop the PTI workers present there to upload videos on social media.
A day after the Rangers and police retreated, Khan's supporters on Thursday placed shipping containers outside the main entrance of his Zaman Park residence, which turned into a battleground on Tuesday after PTI workers engaged in pitched battles with policemen to stop them from arresting their leader in the Toshakhana case, resulting in injuries to more than 60 people, mostly policemen.
A large number of enraged PTI workers on Thursday gathered outside the residence of Khan and managed to erect some tents which were earlier destroyed by the police.
The workers equipped with clubs and slings have pledged to protect their leader from further police action. They were chanting slogans in favour of Khan and against the PML-N-led government and the military establishment.
Although a number of PTI workers coming from different parts of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces arrived here on Thursday to protect their leader, they could not manage to cross the barricades police set up leading to the residence of Khan.
PTI Punjab senior leader Musarrat Cheema said the roads leading to Zaman Park are blocked and containers placed on major highways in Punjab. "We want to warn them that we will continue to defend the leader of the nation. We will not let the future of Pakistan be pledged to these few families,” she said in a tweet.
She further said the Lahore High Court had barred the police from conducting an operation to arrest Khan but if this administration defies court orders, they will face the legions of the people.
Additional District and Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal in Islamabad on February 28 issued non-bailable arrest orders against Khan in the Toshakhana case about the concealment of the proceeds from the sale of state gifts. The judge directed the capital city police to bring him to court by March 18.
On Thursday, the judge dismissed Khan's plea to suspend non-bailable arrest warrants against him and said that he would halt attempts by the Islamabad police to arrest him if the ousted premier surrendered before the court.
Khan has been in the crosshairs for buying gifts, including an expensive Graff wristwatch he had received as the premier at a discounted price from the state depository called Toshakhana and selling them for profit.
Established in 1974, the Toshakhana is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division and stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats, and officials by heads of other governments and states and foreign dignitaries.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan (SCBAP) has condemned the "excessive use of force by authorities at Zaman Park".
"Any form of violence is not acceptable in a democratic country governed by rule of law and the Constitution. The use of excessive force against the former prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, is highly condemned. The method of service of warrants is also highly arbitrary, vindictive and not in accordance with the law. Therefore, such violence must be stopped forthwith,” the SCBAP statement said.
"Every person must be treated in accordance with the law and due process must be adopted. Law enforcement agencies must not use excessive force and citizens must not initiate confrontation or damage public and private property. It is incumbent upon all citizens to obey orders passed by all courts,” it said.
According to Khan, he was facing over 80 different cases in various courts across Pakistan.
Khan was ousted from power in April last year after losing a no-confidence vote, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China and Afghanistan.
Since his ouster, Khan has been asking for early elections to oust what he termed an "imported government" led by prime minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Sharif has maintained that elections will be held later this year once the parliament completes its five-year tenure. PTI MZ/ZH AKJ ZH ZH