Explained: How Pakistan’s Imran Khan evaded arrest with the help of his supporters


High drama unfolded in Pakistan’s Lahore as authorities attempted to arrest former prime minister Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case. The Islamabad police and the Punjab Police had to contend with hordes of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporters and followers, who had congregated at Khan’s Zaman Park residence in Lahore.

The PTI workers continued their huddle around their leader and despite the Islamabad police chief earlier being quoted by Dawn as saying that they won’t go back empty-handed, the arrest could not be made. The drama continued late into the night, and the authorities finally left Imran Khan’s house around 1.30 pm.

Let’s take a look at what unfolded on Sunday and what led to such a state of affairs.

Sunday’s drama

The events that unfolded on Sunday all began after an arrest warrant was issued after Imran Khan failed to appear before the court in a corruption case on 28 February. The Toshakhana case has become a major legal headache for the former prime minister. Khan has been accused of not disclosing gifts he received during his time in office, or the profits he made from selling them.

Armed with the arrest warrant, the Islamabad Police and their Punjab counterparts arrived at Imran Khan’s Lahore residence — Zaman Park — just after noon.

However, when they reached the former prime minister’s house, they were confronted by hordes of Khan’s followers who had gathered at the location. The Islamabad police chief requested the crowds to move, saying, “I appeal to the people not to hinder the police in implementing the orders from the court. Doing so would be a crime.” However, his pleas fell on deaf ears.

Khan’s supporters stood their ground, blocking the authorities from entering the PTI chairman’s residence. Geo TV reported that the people present inside Khan’s residence did not open the doors.

Supporters of former Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan chant slogans outside his house in Lahore. AFP

In fact, Fawad Chaudhry, PTI’s senior vice president and a former minister in Khan’s Cabinet, urged their supporters to come to Zaman Park and stop Khan’s probable arrest. He further tweeted, “Any attempt to arrest Imran Khan will seriously worsen the situation. I want to warn this incompetent and anti-Pakistan government not to push Pakistan into further crisis and act sensibly.”

Despite the growing number of supporters and followers, the superintendent of police had “gone into Imran’s room but he was not present there”.

Islamabad Inspector General of Police (IGP) Akbar Nasir in an interview to Dawn said, “With a lot of respect, we have requested Imran Khan to come with us so that the court’s orders can be obeyed and Imran can be presented in court.”

PTI chief Shibli Faraz received the summons on Imran’s behalf, writing on the document that it was received at 12:58 pm and that “Chairman Imran Khan is not available however we will comply with all legal processes”.

Imran Khan supporters crowded around his Lahore residence and refused to let the Islamabad Police enter the premises. AFP

Officials speak

Imran Khan’s dodging of the arrest evoked reactions from several opposition leaders, including Foreign Minister and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said, “There are other huge challenges this nation is facing; from poverty to floods and terrorism, but the media is worried about one ‘mouse’ and whether he’s at home or not.”

Maryam Nawaz also criticised Khan’s reluctance to surrender before the police. In tweets, she asked Khan to be ‘brave’ and surrender to the police while criticising the PTI workers for their “unruly behaviour”. The Dawn quoted her as saying, “Today the nation has recognised who is brave and who is a coward. Be brave and surrender yourself before the law. This is not the first time the law has come knocking on the doors of those in power. Don’t panic, and don’t let your workers create chaos.”

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Interior and Legal Affairs Attaullah Tarar slammed Imran Khan, calling him a “coward”.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan addressing party workers at Zaman Park, Lahore. Image Courtesy:Imran Khan/Facebook

Khan addresses supporters

As chaos ensued over Khan’s disappearance, he addressed his supporters, saying he had never “bowed before any man or institution”.

The deposed prime minister said that he was being dragged into the courts in fake cases. Khan claimed “they” wanted to kill him while on the way to his court appearance. “They have made yet another plan to kill me during a court appearance,” alleged the 70-year-old leader, who has been recovering from a gunshot injury from an assassination attempt in Wazirabad last year.

Also read: Imran Khan's mounting legal troubles

“I will write to the chief justice of Pakistan telling him that 74 false cases have been registered against me. I have a threat to my life from those who are supposed to protect me,” he said, in an indirect reference to the establishment. “Take an example of criminals like (Prime Minister) Shehbaz Sharif and (Interior Minister) Rana Sanaullah who were involved in killing people and an attempt on his life (in Wazirabad in November last year),” he said as per news agency PTI.

He further attacked the government, saying it was the “worst time” for the country as the economy had “sunk” and the people were being crushed by “record high inflation in Pakistan’s history”.

On Twitter, Khan also levelled allegations against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and former army chief General Bajwa.

Imran’s legal headaches

Since his ouster from power, Imran Khan has alleged that a slew of false cases have been levelled against him. Now, Khan is required to appear in court on 7 March. If he fails to do so, police will be required to arrest him and present him to court.

With inputs from agencies

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Explained: How Pakistan’s Imran Khan evaded arrest with the help of his supporters
Explained: How Pakistan’s Imran Khan evaded arrest with the help of his supporters
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