Pakistan Interior Minister Rana Sanuallah has said that the government plans to consult experts on initiating a process to declare Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party a “proscribed” outfit after police claimed to have seized weapons and petrol bombs from the former premier's residence in Lahore.
Leaders of the ruling alliance lashed out at Mr. Khan who travelled from Lahore to Islamabad on Saturday to mark his presence at a district court here, amidst mayhem and chaos, as his supporters clashed with police.
While Mr. Khan was in Islamabad, over 10,000 armed Punjab police personnel launched a major operation at his Zaman Park residence in Lahore and arrested dozens of his supporters and claimed to have seized weapons and petrol bombs.
Interior Minister Sanuallah said at a press conference on Saturday that the government would consult its legal team to assess whether a process could be initiated to declare the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party a proscribed group, Dawn newspaper reported.
“Terrorists were hiding in Zaman Park. Weapons, petrol bombs, etc have been recovered from the residence of Imran Khan which is enough evidence to file a case against the PTI for being a militant organisation,” Mr. Sanaullah said.
On the government’s plan to initiate the process to ban Khan’s party, the minister said: “Primarily it is a judicial process to declare any party proscribed. However, we will consult our legal team on the issue.”
Separately, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif appeared to agree with the assertion by his niece PMN-L Senior Vice President Maryam Nawaz that Khan’s party is a “militant organisation”.
“If anyone had any doubt, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Niazi’s antics of the last few days laid bare his fascist and militant tendencies," he said in a tweet.
Ms. Maryam said Mr. Khan was afraid of going to jail.
“I wonder if he calls himself a politician. Politicians are not afraid of going to jail and accountability. Only thieves and terrorists do. Fear of arrest shows cases against him (Imran) are genuine,” she said and taunted the court on marking the attendance of Khan in the Toshakhana case without his appearance before it.
“He is a coward as he left the court without marking his attendance”.
Many PML-N Cabinet members held pressers to justify the police action against Khan and chided his party’s “hooliganism” at the Islamabad judicial complex, according to the newspaper.
Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar told reporters that in his 30-year professional career as a lawyer, he had never witnessed a court seeking a signature (from a suspect) in a vehicle to mark his attendance like in the case of Imran Khan.
“Don’t make a joke of your judicial system,” Mr. Tarar said.
Federal Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb also took on the judiciary for giving a “bundle package of bail” to Mr. Khan.
“Those terrorists who attacked police, the judicial system and the state got a bundle package of bail. This gives a message that he (Khan) is above the Constitution and law,” she said.
Ms. Aurangzeb said that followers of Mr. Khan had not thrown petrol bombs on police and rangers alone, but they did so on the court orders as well. All state institutions are responsible for maintaining the writ of the government, she asserted.
“Today, again law and court’s sanctity were trampled. He is trying to influence the court by bringing the people there. The court must take notice of it, otherwise, other political parties will follow suit,” Minister for Climate Change and Pakistan Peoples Party leader Sherry Rehman said.
Mr. Khan arrived at the Islamabad Judicial Complex from Lahore on Tuesday to appear before the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal to attend proceedings on a complaint filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan for allegedly concealing details of gifts in his assets declarations.
Mr. Khan went back to Lahore after waiting for hours at the entrance of the court as police were unable to clear the way occupied by his supporters.
Finally, the judge agreed to let the former premier mark his attendance on a document from his vehicle as the hearing in the Toshakhana case was adjourned till March 30.