Layers and timing: How the police ‘quietly’ handled Imran’s court hearing
PTI Chairman Imran Khan once again appeared in a courtroom in Islamabad on Monday. Like March 18, police carried away dozens of his party’s workers but this time he made it inside court without any fuss.
While the fact that Imran Khan was accompanied by alot less people compared to last time, it might have been the police’s change of strategy that handled things more quietly this time.
The police’s strategy to ensure that no stones would be pelted, no batons would be raised and no tear gas shells would be fired was based on two key points: layers and timing.
When Imran Khan came to the judicial complex on March 18, about two kilometres away from the IHC where he appeared today, the police had surrounded the premises by a wall of containers.
When Imran made his approach off Srinagar Highway, the first skirmish happened at the entrance to the containers. There were dozens if not hundreds of law enforcement personnel waiting at the gate of the court once he got past the first hurdle. The main battle took place at the gate, where Imran Khan ultimately retreated and signed his attendance from the car.
This time, the police did not place a heavy contingent of the police at the gat at all. With no policemen, there was no battle near the court or at its gate. The policemen were somewhere else.
The police instead made two layers of containers this time. The first layer was about half a kilometre away from the court’s gate, another layer was a further half kilometre away.
Security presence was highest at the outermost layer, so once Imran and his supporters went towards the court, they faced successively less security.
The police also made a point of controlling who crossed each layer. From the outermost layer five vehicles including the one carrying Imran were let in. At the second layer, only two vehicles were allowed. One carrying Imran Khan, another carrying Khalid Khurshid, GB’s chief minsiter.
Last time around, police sprang into action as soon as they saw the PTI crowd appraching. Their action was interpreted as an attack on Imran Khan, and his supporters threw himself at his defence.
With layers effectively separating Imran from his supporters at multiple levels this time, the police also chose when to act.
As soon as the five vehicles went past the outermost layer, police cracked down on the protestors following on foot behind. No batons, no screams, no fireworks. Police just went in groups of twos and threes, sometimes in plainclothes and escorted people to prison vans. Out of a total of 38 people arrested, one was Imran Khan’s photographer.
As Imran made his way inside court premises, three of the vehicles accompanying him were sandwiched between two layers of containers and the few workers accompanying them were being arrested. So when he made his way back, he found that one of the three vehicles had been attacked and broken in multiple places, presumably by the police.
This is why, Imran referred to the vehicle as ‘my parked car’ as it was part of his caravan of five vehicles.
The police took away over three dozen protestors and managed to get Imran Khan inside the court without much noise. While the number of protestors that comes along for his next hearing is not in its control, the police has hopefully learnt the lesson that assaulting a charged crowd upfront with the heavist gloves possible is not the way to handle things.
“Mass arrests to punish ordinary people for supporting Imran Khan. Such is the hatred being cultivated against Imran Khan by Rana Sana & his appointees in the police & the plainclothes men belonging to ???” PTI leader Shireen Mazaris said in a tweet.
She wondered how the “state organisations could operate” on such an agenda and demanded the United Nations high commissioner for human rights to take notice.
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