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As Punjab Gov't Deadline for PTI to Handover 'Terrorists' Expires, What Happens Next?

© AP Photo / K.M. ChaudaryMembers of the media are seen on the roof of the house of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan, in Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday, May 18, 2023.
Members of the media are seen on the roof of the house of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan, in Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday, May 18, 2023. - Sputnik India, 1920, 18.05.2023
There was a deadline for Imran Khan to hand over some 40 of his supporters who were allegedly staying at Khan's Zaman Park residence in Lahore, and it expired a little over an hour ago. In an effort to show transparency Khan invited the media to his residence to prove that there are no "terrorists" there.
According to eye witness reports from Lahore, unlike previous times currently there are no large crowds of PTI supporters gathering outside his residence. People mostly present there are media personnel. The roads leading up to Khan's residence have all been shut down and barricaded by the Punjab police.
There has been a massive crackdown on PTI members and Imran Khan's supporters over the last few days. Many of the PTI members such as former human rights minister Shireen Mizari and former information minister Fawad Choudhry were released by the Islamabad High Court only to be arrested again by the police.
Imran Khan is under pressure as many of his top tier leaders have been arrested or have gone into hiding and he himself may be arrested again.
A police officer fires tear gas to disperse supporters of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan protesting against the arrest of their leader, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Wednesday, May 10, 2023. - Sputnik India, 1920, 16.05.2023
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A PTI member reached out to Sputnik, on the condition of anonymity due to security concerns, saying that he had to go into hiding with his wife and two daughters, after police raided his house and beat up his servants.

"Rangers and police came to my house 4 times over the period of 24 hours. They trashed my house and beat up my servants and even arrested one. Myself and family were and are not at home," PTI member told Sputnik.

The situation in the South Asian country escalated after May 9 when Imran Khan was violently arrested by rangers from the Islamabad High Court where he appeared over corruption charges against him, which he has denied but appeared in court as required.
Following his sudden arrest, the PTI supporters took to the streets out of fear over his abduction and met with violent resistance from the police rangers. The clashes resulted in damage to some government properties and army infrastructure. What followed was a few days of chaos as the government banned social media platforms and broadband internet for five days in order to put a blackout over the escalating situation.
Civil unrest in Pakistan - Sputnik India, 1920, 12.05.2023
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Pakistan's Supreme Court two days after Khan's arrest deemed it illegal, and ordered for his immediate release much to PTI's delight. However, Khan's release further infuriated the ruling PDM government and the military resulting in more protests outside the Supreme Court and a heavy crackdown on PTI members.

Imran Khan Invites Reporters Inside His House

The former prime minister has denied instigating violence in the country saying that his supporters have been involved in peaceful protests for over a year and have never damaged public property or called for violence. Khan has asked for an independent investigation into what had happened and why there was so much violence on May 9.
Last night he took to Twitter to tell the nation that he now faces an imminent arrest within 24 hours. For most of Wednesday and Thursday there has been a heavy police deployment outside Khan's house in Lahore.
However, the Punjab police has so far not arrested him, stating that Khan only needs to hand over the people, who the police says, were "terrorists" involved in violence that was carried out last week.
Imran Khan in the court - Sputnik India, 1920, 17.05.2023
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On Thursday, the PTI invited “all media” to Zaman Park residence to cover the search operation order given by the government.
“Media should come, see and let people see the reality as yesterday’s plan was exposed by PML-N’s representatives themselves on live TV,” the party said.
At present videos circulating on social media show a few dozen journalists and camera men sitting inside Khan's house.
Capital TV released a report in Urdu in which it is seen that the reporter is walking around Khan's compound and explaining that there are no "terrorists here as was suggested by the government."
The journalist was seen going inside the rooms of Zaman Park with his cameraman showing other reporters saying the same thing. In one room Khan's personal guards were seen resting, while in another room a man was praying. The reporter even went up to the roof which showed that the situation inside the compound was calm.

Military’s Sledgehammer Comes Down

It seems that Shehbaz Sharif's government and Pakistan's military are in no mood to spare Imran Khan. It became clear in the past few weeks and recently from the warning issued by the Information Minister of Punjab, Amir Mir accusing Imran Khan of harboring 30-40 terrorists involved in May 9 attacks in his Zaman Park house in Lahore. He was given a 24-hour deadline to hand over these ‘terrorists’ or else action will be taken.
At present the situation looks like a fight for survival between Imran Khan and judiciary on one side and the Pakistan Army and the government on the other side.
Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan, center, is escorted by police officers as he arrives to appear in a court, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Friday, May 12, 2023. - Sputnik India, 1920, 15.05.2023
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In Punjab more than 3,200 people were arrested, including famous journalists like Imran Riaz Khan who has millions of subscribers on YouTube. His whereabouts remain unknown as his family is getting desperate for any news about him.
As military sledgehammer comes down, minister Amir Mir announced that those accused of targeting the residence of the top military commander and other military buildings would be tried in military courts.
"The offenders were identified only after 100 percent confirmation of their involvement in the attacks. We will make an example out of them so nobody can dare repeat this in future," Mir told reporters on Wednesday.
Pakistan’s National Security Committee (NSC) approved the military’s decision to try those involved in protesting under the country’s draconian army laws, which overrule civilian courts.
The military courts are separate from Pakistan’s civilian legal system where the judges are members of the army’s legal branch. The hearings will take place at military installations where the media does not have access and a person has no right to appeal their case in another court if convicted.
This move by the military has resulted in an outcry from international rights organizations and groups within Pakistan. They have criticized the decision to use military courts to try civilians, arguing that this risks violating their rights in due process.
Both the PDM government and the military have singled out Imran Khan for spreading hatred against the army and said the people involved in riots last week will be brought to justice.
Whatever happens in the next few hours, one thing is clear - democracy in Pakistan is losing.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Sputnik.