Early this week, for two days police clashed with supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) as officials tried to arrest Imran Khan on a warrant issued for missing court hearings.
On Monday, March 13, a contingent of police arrived with the arrest warrant at the Lahore residence of the former Prime Minister in Zaman Park. What begun as a routine arrest ended up with the police firing tear gas as protestors tried to stop the arrest. At least 54 policemen and eight civilians suffered injuries in the clashes.
As police forces, who were joined by Rangers, tried to disperse crowds, residents of the upper-scale neighborhood have confessed that the past three days have been a complete nightmare.
Model and dancer Hafsah Haq shared pictures and videos of the clashes and revealed that wifi, mobile and television channels had been cut off since the operation began:
“Our wifi, mobile net and TV channels have been cut off since 12 am yesterday. Communicating via texts and calls has been difficult as well because of the scattered signals causing delayed texts and calls dropping.”
Haq also shared a video of tear gas being shot near her home, and revealed how her family members were exposed to it:
“Tear gas was shot everywhere. Unfortunately, one landed in the terrace where the AC’s unit is visible is where one can landed and we were on the roof. We were exposed to it and immediately rushed back inside, washing our eyes and face because the burning sensation was horrendous.”
Haq also shared a video of a tear gas shell she found inside her house, and in the caption she had written that it had expired four months ago, making it more virulent:
“When they say it’s deadly after the expiration date. And it’s four months above the expiration date.”
The Current reached out to Resident 1 who lives near Zaman Park and was told that the situation has been bad for the past three days because the internet and light had been cut off in the area, as well as the extensive tear gas shells that have injured people. She said that she found at least 200 tear gas shells from her house:
“Police and rangers have been shelling continuously for two days straight, they used rubber bullets on people and also actual bullets were found on the roads of Zaman Park.”
Resident 1 also shared pictures with us of tear gas shells, which she revealed were thrown directly on crowds. She said that she and the rest of the residents couldn’t breathe and their skin began burning.
Resident 1 said that the police had not offered evacuation or medical facilities to residents currently residing in homes of Zaman Park.
“The rescue 1122 people were not responding, so we had to force them to help.”
Resident 1 said that without proper facilities, she and the rest of her family have been helping the protestors by providing them with salt and water, as well as stopping the police from hurting them.
Cut off without proper medical facilities or food, Resident 1 has been asking for more people to donate supplies in order to help the protestors.
The Current also reached out to Resident 2 who also lives near Zaman Park and confirmed that the residents themselves have been caught in the middle of the protests and are suffering from the shelling:
“Our faces, our skins, eyes are watering. We had rashes all over our body. It was intense, like when we stepped out into our gardens there was a cloud of tear gas, and the smell stayed on for quite a while. Breathing became unbearable although most of them were inside and people who were trying to put out the shells faced the same problems.”
In video clips posted to her Instagram stories, she had revealed that all entrances and exits to Zaman Park had been sealed
Resident 2 revealed that it was currently the residents who were stepping up to help the protestors and provide them with medical aid and food.
She went on to describe the medical camp that was set up at Zaman Park which was set up by the residents to help injured people, where it was disturbing to see young women and children injured:
“It was very disturbing to see young women and children bleeding and their retina’s burst and their lips split, their teeth and arms broken. Basically badly bruised and battered by the police. It was really upsetting to see such sights and at a human level, people in whatever capacity were stepping out and helping in any way they could.”
Resident 2 shared that while the situation at Zaman Park is bleak, she was empowered by witnessing these people fighting against the government attempt to arrest Imran Khan:
“Seeing all these people fighting at the forefront for their haqeeqi-azaadi, for Naya Pakistan for everybody, for a state that will have law at the forefront. All these people, all these youngsters..they have put their best fight forward..So it’s not that they were hiding, people were relentless in this fight and its sad to see that this is leading to polarisation.”
The Lahore High Court had ordered the police to halt the operation and said that on Thursday, all parties must sit together and find a solution.
But for the residents of Zaman Park this order doesn’t bring any joy as it doesn’t mean there is any proper outcome and it doesn’t provide any guarantee of safety for the residents or for Khan’s life.
“There are currently a large number of people at Zaman Park and we don’t know what is the leadership’s next move. We do not know what is the establishment’s next move. So what the people want right now is the safety of Khan.”
She also went on to condemn the IG of Lahore for saying in a televised speech that no bullets were fired at residents during Operation Zaman Park, stressing that bullets were found on the ground.
Resident 2 went on to say that what the people currently want is the assured safety of Imran Khan, and don’t want anything to happen to him.
“The few thousands that are here right now do not want anything to happen to Khan, and they don’t want to do any undertaking where they feel his life will be under threat. If he has has to go to court…they want some assurance, they want a promise from the government that nothing will happen to him.”
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