A Pakistani anti-terror court directed police on Friday to implement its order to arrest cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and cleric Tahirul Qadri by November 17 in connection with an attack on Pakistan Television headquarters during a protest in 2014.
The court’s order came at a time when Khan and Qadri are preparing for a planned shutdown of Islamabad from November 2 to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to act on allegations that his three children own offshore assets worth millions of dollars.
Judge Kausar Abbas Zaidi questioned why police had not submitted a report on implementing arrest warrants issued by his court for Khan, Qadri and 68 other people.
Expressing displeasure at the police’s failure to implement the warrants, the judge directed officials to arrest Khan, Qadri and the others and present them in court on November 17.
Six suspects who appeared in court were granted exemption from personal appearance, but Khan and Qadri have not been exempted as they never appeared before the judge.
A total of 70 people were booked when protesters belonging to Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehrik stormed the PTV headquarters in Islamabad and forced staff to take two flagship channels – PTV News and PTV World – off the air on September 1, 2014.
At the time, hundreds of workers of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehrik were camping outside Parliament as part of a protest to oust the Sharif government over allegations of corruption and poor governance.
According to witnesses, nearly 400 protestors stormed the PTV building after they were prevented from entering the Pakistan Secretariat compound, which houses key ministries. The protesters dispersed when a contingent of soldiers and paramilitary personnel arrived at the site about an hour later.
This was the first time that PTV’s transmissions went off the air since October 12, 1999, when former military ruler Pervez Musharraf took power in a bloodless coup after toppling the government of Nawaz Sharif.
Khan and the government have been engaged in a war of words over revelations in the Panama Papers leaks that Sharif’s children owned offshore assets. Khan’s party has submitted a petition in the Supreme Court seeking Sharif’s disqualification.
The ruling PML-N has dismissed media reports that Khan and other leaders of his party could be detained before the November 2 protest in Islamabad.