Imran Khan supporters create human barrier to stop arrest

Lahore, Pakistan – On Wednesday, Pakistani police abandoned their attempt to arrest former Prime Minister Imran Khan after facing violent confrontations with hundreds of his supporters in the affluent Zaman Park suburb of Lahore.

According to witnesses at the scene, law enforcement officers, including police and paramilitary rangers, were forced to withdraw from the area, dismantling roadblocks and checkpoints in the process.

“The police and rangers dispatched to harm Imran Khan were repelled by the citizens,” the official Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party announced on Twitter, accompanied by a video of jubilant supporters gathered outside Khan’s residence.

The PTI added, “More people continue to gather at Zaman Park, determined to prevent the malicious plans of this imposed government from prevailing by the will of God.” 

Throughout the night, police fought with Khan’s supporters, exchanging tear gas and dodging rocks hurled by enraged crowds.

By Wednesday afternoon, groups of police officers were observed retreating from the vicinity of Khan’s home.

Khan, who was removed from office via a no-confidence vote last year, has been entangled in numerous legal cases as he campaigns for early elections and a return to power.

Official PTI social media accounts displayed videos of the former Prime Minister greeting supporters within his garden while celebratory crowds were amassed outside.

Imran Khan vs Pakistan: Legal disputes

Pakistani authorities maintain they possess a warrant for Khan’s arrest after he failed to appear before an Islamabad court on corruption charges.

Nevertheless, Khan and his legal representatives assert that he has already been granted bail for the offense.

Muhammad Taqi Jawad, a spokesperson for Islamabad police, said that contrary to Khan’s claims, “The PTI leader, Imran Khan, does not have protective bail for this particular case.” 

Jawad also emphasized that the arrest warrant would remain in effect and denied the withdrawal of police forces.

He stated, “Our actions will strictly comply with the law, and we are dedicated to carrying out our responsibilities.”

In a video released earlier, Khan sat before Pakistani and PTI flags, surrounded by spent tear gas canisters.

He declared, “They may use tear gas against our people and engage in similar actions, but it’s important to realize that they have no valid reason for doing so.”

On Wednesday morning, hundreds of PTI supporters formed a human barrier around Khan’s residence in the upscale neighborhood, successfully thwarting police attempts to breach the property.

Social media videos circulated by official PTI accounts depicted injured supporters and others suffering from the effects of tear gas.

A PTI official urgently requested first aid kits for the Zaman Park community via Twitter.

In response to the police aggression, Khan said, “The manner in which the police assault our citizens is unprecedented.”

He also highlighted the use of water cannons and tear gas, which were fired into the grounds of his residence, where staff and women were present.

High Court petition and political drama

The Islamabad High Court convened on Wednesday to consider a new petition from the PTI to prevent Khan’s arrest, potentially diffusing the tense situation.

Khan, 70, is required to appear in court to address allegations that he failed to disclose gifts received during his time as Prime Minister, as well as the profits gained from their sale.

While the former international cricket star continues to pressure the incumbent coalition government, led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, through popular rallies and daily addresses, Sharif accused Khan of considering himself “above the law.”

Sharif further criticized Khan’s actions as “naked defiance” and noted that the former Prime Minister “is defying each other.

Pakistan faces a severe economic downturn, with the risk of defaulting on its debts if assistance cannot be obtained from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Deteriorating security in Pakistan 

The country’s security situation has also worsened, with a recent series of deadly attacks on police headquarters attributed to the Pakistani Taliban.

Tauseef Ahmed Khan, a political analyst, author, and human rights activist commented on the ongoing standoff in Lahore: “The standoff in Lahore reflects the worst state of affairs in the country.”

Khan further explained, “On one side, it is the failure of police and law enforcement agencies… on the other, this has been a new trend in South Asian politics – that a political leader is defying arrest by using his workers and supporters.”

The arrest attempt and subsequent clashes between Khan’s supporters and law enforcement agencies have exposed deepening political divides and raised concerns about the stability of Pakistan’s government.

As the country grapples with economic and security challenges, resolving this political crisis will be critical for the nation’s future prospects.