Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers and police clashed on Tuesday in Lahore's Zaman Park area after a contingent of the Islamabad police, along with armoured vehicles, reached party chief Imran Khan's Lahore residence to arrest the former premier after non-bailable warrants were issued in the ongoing Toshakhana (gift depository) case against him.
The official Twitter handle of the party urged supporters and workers to gather outside the residence and 'remain peaceful'.
However, PTI workers reportedly started stoning police officials as the police began baton-charging the crowds, turning Zaman Park into a battleground. Police allegedly used water canons to hold back PTI workers, with some being taken into custody.
According to sources, a heavy contingent of Lahore Police accompanying the capital police is also outside Imran's house, and the police have blocked all the roads leading to the neighbourhood.
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Operations Islamabad Shahzad Nadeem Bukhari reportedly injured in the clashes and taken to Services Hospital for treatment.
The PTI also urged its workers and supporters to hold countrywide protests against Imran Khan's likely arrest.
As Imran Khan and other PTI leaders appealed its workers to stage protests throughout the country, the party workers started protests on different points of Lahore prominently Liberty Chowk, Babu Sabu Interchange and Mall Road.
The protests and the diversions placed by police interrupted traffic flow on all the major roads of the city. The commuters faced immense pressure and nuisance in travelling to their destinations as traffic rush was observed on Canal Road, Ferozpur Road, Multan Road, Jail Road, Band Road and other arteries.
A series of organised and sporadic protests broke out in Karachi with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf workers blocking roads and disrupting traffic in several areas of the city.
PTI’s Karachi chapter said that they had shut down or were protesting at at least 14 different locations across the city. They include key routes and thoroughfares including Teen Talwar and Shaheen Complex in South district, Hyderi, the 4K Stop and Five Star roundabouts in Central district, Mauripur Road in West district and Landhi’s Dawood roundabout.
There were protests in Hassan Square, Qayyumabad and Rashid Minhas Road areas of East district, and the Star Gate area which falls in Faisal Cantonment and leads to the airport. There were protests at the Sohrab Goth as well and is one the main routes to the Super Highway.
PTI said that its MPA Shahnawaz Jadoon was arrested during a protest at Native Jetty Bridge.
The road to Numaish was re-opened for traffic after police dispersed protesters who had blocked the road.
There have been reports that police was using tear gas to disperse protesters at the Five Star roundabout.
The flow of traffic was badly disrupted on key thoroughfares after protesters barricaded roads with trucks and burning tyres.
The protests in Karachi began around 6pm with people going home from work stranded for hours at various locations including Hassan Square, University Road and Qayyumabad.
In Peshawar, PTI workers gathered in front of the Press Club and protested. They also staged a demonstartion at the Assembly roundabout.
In Rawalpindi, PTI workers were directed to reach Committee Chowk to stage a protest demonstration.
In Faisalabad, the PTI workers staged a protest demonstration at Samundri Road.
Meanwhile, the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Police in a statement has said legal action would be taken against those who were obstructing the implementation of the court orders regarding the arrest of Imran Khan.
An ICT Police team had been in Lahore since yesterday to comply with the court orders and the Punjab Police were extending their support to it, an Islamabad Police spokesperson said.
He said the Deputy Inspector General (Operations) and the Senior Superintendent of Police were safe.
DIG Bukhari earlier arrived at the scene with an armoured vehicle and a police team to ensure compliance with the arrest warrant.
Two police officers held up placards, with the arrest warrants pasted on them with an inscription regarding the receipt of notices.
When asked what the charges against Imran were, DIG Bukhari refrained from answering and stated that he was fulfilling the warrant. He added that media personnel would be informed regarding where Imran would be taken after the arrest.
PTI leader Farrukh Habib also shared footage from Zaman Park and claimed Imran's "life was in danger" and added that circumstances are being created in order to target the former premier again.
Habib added Islamabad's F-8 judicial complex was a "death trap" for Imran. The PTI leader further said everyone knows about the repeated warrants being issued and the police working towards Imran's arrest.
Earlier, an Islamabad sessions court rejected Imran's exemption from appearance plea and restored his non-bailable arrest warrant in the Toshakhana criminal proceedings case.
Additional Sessions Judge Zafar Iqbal announced the verdict and ordered the former prime minister to appear in court on March 18.
Meanwhile, PTI chief Imran Khan has made an impassioned plea to his supporters, urging them to stand up for their rights and “continue the struggle” even if he is arrested or assassinated.
In a video message released on social media, he said that the authorities believe his arrest would lead to the nation's indifference. “My fellow Pakistanis, the police are outside waiting to arrest me. They believe that if Imran Khan is put in jail, the nation will fall asleep. You must prove them wrong. You must show that this nation is alive and kicking,” he said.
Imran went on to emphasise the importance of the Pakistani nation, which he stressed was formed on the principles of ‘La illaha Illalah’ (there is only one God).
“This nation is the Ummah of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him) and it was formed on the principles and slogan of La illaha Illalah. You must step out and fight for your rights and true freedom,” he said.
He called on Pakistanis to stand up for their rights and true freedom, stating that he has been fighting this battle all his life and would continue to do so.
However, he warned that if something were to happen to him, his supporters must carry on the fight and never accept the tyranny of the "thieves" who are making decisions for the country, particularly the one man who holds the reins of power.
“God has given me everything, and I am fighting this battle for you. I have been fighting this battle all my life, and I will continue to do so,” he said.
“But if something happens to me, if I am jailed or if they kill me, then you must show that this nation will carry on fighting. You must never accept the tyranny of these thieves, especially the one man who is making decisions for the country.”
Taking to Twitter, President Arif Alvi said that he was deeply saddened by today's events. “Unhealthy revenge politics. Poor priorities of govt of a country that should focus on economic misery of the people. Are we destroying political landscape?” he wrote.
He said he was concerned about safety and dignity of Imran Khan like that of all politicians.
Former prime minister and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif taunted Imran Khan for trying to evade his arrest, saying, “If there was a person full of bravery and honour in his place, he would have drowned in shame instead of putting on this circus show [outside his residence]”.
“He would have left politics instead of being accused of cowardice and dishonor,” he added.