Islamabad Police arrive at former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s residence at Zaman Park, Lahore, to arrest him in the Toshakhana case, according to Pakistani media reports. PTI threatens nationwide mass protests as police attempt to arrest Imran from his Zaman Park residence.
Islamabad Police along with their Punjab Police counterparts on Sunday reached PTI chairman Imran Khan’s Zaman Park residence in Lahore to take him into custody for his persistent absences from Toshakhana court hearings, the Dawn reported. The 70-year-old former prime minister has skipped indictment hearings in an Islamabad sessions court in the case three times.
A media report said that Islamabad Police were met by a large number of PTI workers when they arrived at Imran’s Zaman Park residence in Lahore to arrest him. They gathered there at Fawad Chaudhry’s call. Non-bailable arrest warrants were issued by a sessions court judge for Imran’s persistent no-shows in the Toshakhana case hearings. And the police have also said that those who obstruct arrest will be prosecuted. Imran is accused of allegedly concealing details of the gifts in his asset declarations that he retained from the Toshakhana, a repository where presents handed to government officials from foreign officials are kept, the report added.
Officials are legally allowed to retain gifts if they pay a pre-assessed amount, typically a fraction of the value of the gift. In a series of tweets today, the Islamabad Police said that an operation to arrest Imran was being conducted with the cooperation of the Lahore police. It stated that the PTI chief was “avoiding” the arrest, adding that the superintendent of police had “gone into Imran’s room, but he was not present there.”
“Legal action will be taken against those obstructing the execution of court orders,” the police added. As per the report, television footage shows police officials being held back by PTI workers outside the Zaman Park residence. A short while later, television footage showed Punjab police reinforcements arriving outside Imran’s house. Additional District and Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal issued non-bailable arrest warrants for the PTI chief on February 28 when he failed to appear in person for the indictment. Imran had four in-person court hearings that day and managed to secure bail in three of the four cases.
The warrant stated that Imran had repeatedly failed to appear before the court. “The accused is picking and choosing which courts and cases to attend, and this case is not included in his priorities.” “The accused be summoned through a non-bailable warrant of arrest for March 7,” it added. On the other hand, Fawad Chaudhary has warned of country-wide protests if the “red line” is crossed. In a press conference outside Imran’s residence, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said that the Islamabad Police had arrived at the ex-prime minister’s residence to execute his arrest in the Toshakhana case.
“There are 74 cases against Imran. It is humanly not possible for any person to appear in court in all these cases,” he said, claiming that Imran’s arrest was aimed at postponing the upcoming general elections in Punjab. Fawad stated that Imran had always respected the judiciary and appeared before courts whenever he was called. “But they want Imran Khan to go to court so that terrorists can target him again.”
He then called on party workers across the country to prepare. “If they cross the red line, there will be a protest that Pakistan has never seen before,” Fawad added. On the other hand, PTI vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi asked supporters not to panic.
Imran was set to be indicted in the Toshakhana Reference on February 28, but his lawyer had requested to ADSJ Iqbal that he be exempted from the hearing because he had to appear in several other courts. His indictment was deferred twice before. The judge then issued arrest warrants for Imran and adjourned the hearing till March 7.
The Toshakhana case refers to the fact that Imran had not shared details of the gifts he retained from the Toshaskhana (during his time as the prime minister) and proceeded with their reported sales. A case was filed by lawmakers from the ruling coalition last year. On October 21, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) concluded that the former premier had indeed made “false statements and incorrect declarations” regarding the gifts.
The Toshakhana is a department under the Cabinet Division that stores gifts given to rulers and government officials by heads of other governments and foreign dignitaries. According to Toshakhana rules, gifts, presents, and other such materials received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division.
The watchdog’s order said Imran stood disqualified under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported. Subsequently, the ECP approached the Islamabad sessions court with a copy of the reference, seeking proceedings against Imran under criminal law for allegedly misleading officials about the gifts he received from foreign dignitaries during his tenure as Prime Minister.