LAHORE: Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah hinted that legal proceedings could be initiated to declare former prime minister Imran Khan`s political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) a banned outfit, Tribune reported. Speaking at a press conference in Lahore on Saturday, Rana said that the legal team of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was examining the matter in light of several revelations that could lead to a reference being filed against the party. He however clarified that it is ultimately up to the courts to officially ban a political party.
According to him, Punjab Police along with other law enforcement agencies conducted an operation against the “no-go area” in Lahore where a purported political leader had allegedly created an “atmosphere of fear”. Sanaullah said that the action was taken after resistance was encountered during the execution of court orders, leading to concerns about a possible terrorist organisation`s presence, Tribune reported.
“The operation resulted in the clearance of the no-go area in Zaman Park. Despite having a search warrant, officials did not enter the residential area,” he added. The interior minister said that 65 people have been arrested from the outer part of the building, most of them do not belong to Punjab and their role is suspicious.
He further said that guns, petrol bomb-making equipment, slingshots and other weapons were recovered from Zaman Park. Earlier on Saturday, the Punjab police launched a surprise search operation at Imran`s residence, hours after he left to appear before a local court in Islamabad, and arrested several party workers.
Former Punjab chief minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf president Chaudhry Parvez Elahi termed police raid at Zaman Park a grave violation of the Lahore High court orders and said that the police operation in Zaman Park was carried out on the direction of Maryam Nawaz and Rana Sanaullah. The PTI lead!ership has strongly condemned the “state terrorism” launched at the residence of party chairman Imran Khan which they said was “part of a London Plan to eliminate him”, the Dawn reported. Tribune reported that the Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Lahore himself monitored the operation as the police used heavy machinery to break down the gate of PTI chief Imran Khan`s residence.
Police were accompanied by water cannons, bulldozers, and a prisoner van. They soon demolished PTI camps in the area with the help of cranes and removed barriers and containers.Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Dr Usman Anwar said that weapons were recovered during today`s search operation.
“We have recovered weapons from Imran Khan`s house. There are more arms present there. An impression was being given that it is a no-go area but we have cleared it,” the Punjab IGP said during a press conference, flanked by Caretaker Punjab Minister for Information Amir Mir.
He said that there were also some bunkers constructed at Zaman Park whereas some bullet-proof equipment was also found. He added that all illegal encroachments have also been removed, Tribune reported.
Legal proceedings against Imran Khan began after he was ousted from office in a parliamentary vote early last year. The 70-year-old politician has been demanding a snap election and holding protests across the country.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has rejected Khan`s demands, saying an election would be held as scheduled later this year. Political infighting comes as the country struggles with an economic crisis, awaiting a bailout package of USD1.1 billion from the IMF.
The case before the Islamabad High Court accuses Imran Khan of selling luxury watches and other items that were given to the state during his 2018-2022 term as prime minister.
The Election Commission of Pakistan found him guilty and barred him from holding public office for one parliamentary term. Imran says he is avoiding the hearings because he fears for his safety.