LAHORE: A deadlock over the search of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan’s residence at Zaman Park here could not be broken, as an official team, led by the Lahore commissioner, returned empty-handed on Friday.
Punjab Caretaker Information Minister Amir Mir had claimed that the law-enforcers wanted to search the residence of former premier as geofencing showed that ‘30-40 terrorists’, involved in attacking military installations, were hiding there.
But when the government team held meetings with Khan and his legal team, they could not make any breakthrough despite holding talks for one-and-a-half hours, as the PTI chief refused to allow them to search his house. “If they want to search for wanted men, then they already have them. They have arrested 7,500 of our ‘wanted’ workers,” Khan said, claiming that anyone associated with his party was a “wanted person” right now.
“I told them: come inside and look for yourself, there’s no wanted person here,” Khan told the media. He said that unlike the authorities’ earlier claim, they were not looking for terrorists but only people who were “wanted” and hiding at his Zaman Park residence.
“Now, they are claiming that they are hunting down wanted people and not terrorists,” Khan told reporters at his residence after meeting the government delegation “that had come to his house for mulling over the SOPs [standard operating procedures] for a search operation”.
Punjab’s interim information minister told Geo News’ Shahzad Iqbal that Khan wants only “four police personnel” to search his house despite the delegation showing him a list of 2,200 people. A government statement said the team handed over all the evidence about the suspects to Imran Khan and the administration of Zaman Park. It said a list of 2,200 suspects involved in the violence was handed over to Khan. Names of various party leaders including Murad Saeed, Hammad Azhar, Hassaan and Zubair Niazi were included in the list, added the sources.
In his presser, Khan asked the authorities if they wanted to look for terrorists, then why were they insistent on searching his house. “Why would you want to search my house? But, if you want to, I will only allow it if they agree to follow Lahore High Court’s earlier order of three people — one government personnel, one person from our side, and a lady officer — searching the house.”
Khan denied sheltering anyone involved in the violence and said a search could only be conducted by a panel set up by a high court, with members from both the government and his party – and on the condition that a female officer accompanies them.
Khan said he feared that if the police personnel, with a heavy contingent, come to raid his house, then they might “plant people or material” at his house “like they did earlier”.
The former prime minister proposed that if the authorities provide evidence that his party workers were involved in the arson attacks, the PTI would help arrest them.
“Under the guise of their crackdown, they are trying to wipe out the party,” he said, adding: “But I will play till the last ball.”
Separately, Caretaker CM Mohsin Naqvi said as the Zaman Park administration had cleared encroachments, a police check-post was being removed from there. He directed the district administration to restore Zaman Park to its original shape immediately. He remarked that the residents of Zaman Park had already suffered a lot.
Meanwhile, PTI Senator Shibli Faraz strongly condemned the Islamabad police for raiding PTI Chairman Imran Khan Bani Gala residence on Friday and harassing his security guards and staff unnecessarily.
He added that the police should demonstrate some civility and respect for the law, or else they would approach the court against the IG police. In a strong reaction to the Islamabad police’s raidsat Bani Gala, Shibli said the police arrived at the party chairman’s residence without warrants. He said that the police visited Bani Gala for the second time and harassed the security guards and staff.