Pakistan police try to arrest Imran Khan: ‘He is reluctant to surrender’

Imran Khan has been accused of being “reluctant” to get arrested by Pakistan’s police.

A team of officers who had gone to arrest the country’s former prime minister on Sunday had returned empty-handed.

The police action came days after Mr Khan was handed a non-bailable arrest warrant for his continued absences pertaining to the Toshakhana case.

Toshakhana is a department under the federal government’s Cabinet Division which stores gifts and other expensive items received by public officials.

The Toshakhana case was filed in August last year against Mr Khan by the Pakistan government led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

It claimed the former prime minister had not disclosed information on gifts presented to Toshakhana and the proceeds from the “illegal” sale of some of the gifts.

“According to the court orders, a team of Islamabad Police has reached Lahore to arrest Imran Khan,” the police force said in a series of tweets in Urdu on Sunday.

“All operations are being completed with the cooperation of Lahore Police. Legal action will be taken against those obstructing the execution of court orders.”

On 28 February, Mr Khan was to be indicted by a court in the case, but his lawyers requested his exemption from appearing as he had to go to other courts in connection with cases filed against him.

The court rejected the request and issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against him.

Mr Khan has allegedly failed to appear in court twice before as well.

On Sunday, Islamabad police had said a team from Lahore would transport the former prime minister to Islamabad.

“Law is equal for all,” it tweeted.

In another tweet, Islamabad police said Mr Khan was “reluctant” to surrender after it said one of its officials had gone inside the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief’s home but found he was not there.

The police team later decided to call off the “operation” after Mr Khan’s chief staff and PTI member Shibli Faraz said the former prime minister was “not available”, reported the Dawn newspaper.

Mr Faraz said Mr Khan would comply with legal notices.

Videos and reports on social media claimed PTI supporters thronged Mr Khan’s residence in Lahore when the police came to arrest him and prevented them from trying to enter his home.

Later, Mr Khan appeared at his residence and addressed his supporters.

“I am being called to appear before the courts in ‘farcical’ cases like a terrorism case with regard to a protest outside the Election Commission of Pakistan office while I was at my home,” Mr Khan was quoted as saying.

He added that he had been booked in some 74 cases. “I appeared before the LHC [Lahore high court] and courts in Islamabad but no security was provided to me,” he complained.

He also said proceedings in the Toshakhana case should be aired on television.

“If proceedings of the Toshakhana case are aired on TV, people will know that Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari are the real dacoits, and the only person who did not do anything against the law will turn out to be Imran Khan,” he said.

The federal government, however, said it was not interested in arresting Mr Khan and the police were acting on court orders.

“If we would have been interested in arresting him, we would have detained him on Feb 28 when he came to Islamabad to get bail. We can even arrest him from Lahore if we want to,” interior minister Rana Sanaullah Khan told reporters.

He said the police were following the directions of the court and they will inform it that Mr Khan did not cooperate.

Pakistan’s media regulator banned the broadcast of Mr Khan’s speeches on Sunday as well.

The ban by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority covers airing of both recorded and live speeches by Mr Khan, who was ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament last April.

An attempt to assassinate the former prime minister was also made late last year.

The media regulator said it had imposed the ban against Mr Khan for spreading hate “against state institutions and officers, which is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order”.