Imran Khan led thousands of party workers at an election rally in Lahore as Islamabad police arrived to arrest him on Monday. Khan was ousted from power in April after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership.
Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses a press conference. (Photo: Reuters)
By Press Trust of India: Pakistan’s ousted premier Imran Khan Monday led a march of thousands of his supporters as Islamabad police arrived here to arrest him after two non-bailable arrest warrants were issued against him, a day after he called off his party’s election rally following a ban on public gatherings in Punjab’s provincial capital.
The 70-year-old former cricketer-turned-politician’s supporters threw rose petals at a convoy carrying him to Data Darbar shrine where he is expected to address his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers. A large number of women also joined the rally.
Khan left his Zaman Park residence as Islamabad police arrived in Lahore on a special helicopter to arrest the PTI chief after two non-bailable arrest warrants were issued against him for failing to appear in courts in the Toshakhana case and for threatening a woman magistrate while addressing a public gathering here last year.
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Earlier, the Lahore district administration met with the party’s leadership to discuss the rally, its route and security arrangements.
The district administration, however, imposed a condition that no leader would give a statement against the judiciary or any other institution.
As the caretaker government had directed the PTI leadership to end the rally at 5.30pm, it could not reach its destination (Data Darbar shrine) at 7.45pm. Khan is leading the rally while sitting in a bomb-proof car.
Senior PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry has warned the government against any attempt to stop the rally. “Watch the scenes of the rally in Lahore at this time and understand that stopping Imran Khan is like inviting people’s wrath,” he said.
Khan on Sunday called off his party’s planned election rally in Lahore after Punjab’s caretaker government banned public gatherings in the provincial capital.
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In a televised address, Khan on Saturday announced that he will lead an election campaign rally in Lahore on Sunday and urged his supporters and workers to participate in face of the police brutality purportedly committed against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.
Soon after his announcement, the local administration enforced Section 144 in the provincial capital and banned public gatherings, citing concerns in the wake of a Pakistan Super League (PSL) cricket match in the city.
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Khan’s party approached Election Commission offices and the courts against the government’s move, saying the imposition of Section 144 should be declared null and void.
Later, in a surprise move, he postponed the rally, calling on his workers to “not fall into this trap”.
“It seems again Sec 144 has been imposed illegally solely on the PTI election campaign as all other public activities are ongoing in Lahore. Only Zaman Park has been surrounded by containers & heavy police contingent. Clearly, like 8 March, Punjab CM & police want to provoke clashes to file more sham FIRs against PTI ldrshp & workers & to use as a pretext for postponing elections (sic),” Khan tweeted.
He told his supporters “not to fall into this trap”.
“Hence, we have postponed the rally till tomorrow,” he tweeted.
However, Punjab’s caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi said that no ban had been imposed on political activities in the city. “All political parties are freely allowed to campaign,” he tweeted.
One activist of Khan’s party was killed on Wednesday during a crackdown on his supporters who gathered outside his residence in Lahore, defying a government ban on rallies in the city.
Meanwhile, the Lahore police booked Khan in another case related to the killing of a PTI worker – Ali Bilal alias Zille Shah – in a road accident.
Earlier, the Lahore police had registered an FIR against Khan and 400 others for the murder of Shah.
“The new FIR has been registered against Imran Khan, Fawad Chaudhry, Dr Yasmin Rashid and a number of other PTI men for abetment to murder, concealing facts and evidence related to the death of Zille Shah,” a senior police officer told PTI.
He said the police may arrest Khan and others nominated in the FIR after direction from the “top”. The PTI had accused the police of murder of Shah after inflicting brutal torture on March 8.
This is the 81th FIR against Khan since the PML-N led federal coalition came into power 11 months ago after toppling his government through a no-confidence motion.
Khan was ousted from power in April after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China, and Afghanistan.