— Minister concedes police could have prevented the ‘attack on Jinnah House’
LAHORE: The interim government of Punjab has issued an ultimatum to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party, demanding the surrender of a group of “30-40 terrorists” allegedly taking refuge at the residence of former prime minister Imran Khan in Lahore.
A wave of violence engulfed Islamabad and other urban areas following the dramatic arrest of Khan from a courtroom in Islamabad on Tuesday last week.
Angry supporters torched buildings and vehicles and attacked police and military personnel and facilities. The clashes killed 10 people; authorities arrested 4,000. The Supreme Court later ordered Khan’s release and criticised the way he was arrested.
The government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has accused the former premier of hiding suspects linked to the attacks on military installations at his residence in Lahore.
In a news conference in Lahore, Amir Mir, the caretaker information minister, emphasised that the opposition party must comply with the demand or face legal consequences, claiming to be in possession of credible intelligence confirming the presence of these protestors labeled as militants.
Mir expressed “deep concern” regarding the intelligence report, which he claimed presented alarming findings. Through the employment of geo-fencing technology, government agencies have allegedly verified the location of these individuals within Zaman Park.
Accusing PTI of adopting non-state actor tendencies, Mir criticised the former prime minister for incessantly targeting the military for over a year. He appealed to the party to promptly “hand over the terrorists to the authorities.”
Furthermore, Mir claimed that the PTI leadership had allegedly orchestrated an attack prior to Khan’s arrest. Elaborating on the matter, he disclosed that a premeditated plan was executed during the violent protests on May 9, which included assaults on military installations.
To combat this menace, the government has adopted a zero-tolerance policy and granted the police full authority, as interim chief minister Mohsin Naqvi has sanctioned decisive measures against arsonists.
During the news conference, the minister disclosed that the attack on the official residence of the commander of the Lahore Corps could have been easily averted if the caretaker chief minister had not prohibited the police from using firearms.
The decision to avoid bloodshed in the province was cited as the reason behind the restriction, he said.
In relation to the assault on the building, the information minister claimed that several individuals involved in the arson were in communication with individuals inside Zaman Park.
He emphasized that those responsible for the attack would be dealt with severely to serve as a deterrent for future such acts.