Undemocratic and unconstitutional

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister and Chairman of the opposition party PTI Imran Khan who was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on May 9, this year in connection with corruption involving the Al-Qadir University Trust was granted five bails by the Islamabad High Court on May 12, 2023, after the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled one day ago that that arrest was illegal and ordered his immediate release.
After Imran Khan’s arrest, violent protests erupted across the country, as PTI supporters took to the streets. Reportedly, at least 10 people including policemen were killed. Sources suggest that in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Islamabad, both sides fired at each other, while, more than 200 persons and policemen were injured. In some places, personnel of the Rangers were also targeted, and the interim provincial governments deployed army troops to maintain law and order in Punjab and K-P as well as other affected areas.
In various cities, the PTI supporters damaged civil and military installations on a large scale, which also includes the Radio Pakistan building in Peshawar, where, the protesters vandalised the building and engaged in arson—office of the election commission in K-P, Police stations in Lahore and other towns, while many vehicles were set to ablaze.
Particularly, in the cantonment areas, the Corps Commander’s residence in Lahore also known as Jinnah House was ransacked and set on fire by a large number of PTI workers. In Rawalpindi, PTI workers pelted stones on the gate of the army’s General Headquarters, damaging army martyrs’ monuments and memorials. In cant areas, houses and offices of the army were also targeted.
Almost all the leaders of the coalition government, including Prime Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif of PML-N, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Chairman of the PPP, federal ministers and several members of the civil society strongly condemned the PTI workers’ violent attacks at civil and military installations as undemocratic and unconstitutional move, saying these have shown fascist approach of the PTI. They also reminded the sacrifices of the armed forces, especially of the army for maintaining the internal and external security of the country.
Besides, people belonging to various segments of society staged rallies, showing solidarity with the armed forces. They strongly condemned the attacks of miscreants on government installations and vandalising of state institutions.
However, in a statement, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on May 10, 2023, termed May 9 as a dark day in national history in the wake of the violent incidents which took place against the Pakistan Army. The statement elaborated that immediately after the PTI chief’s arrest, there were organised attacks on army installations and anti-army slogans were raised—“One group [PTI] wearing a political cloak, driven by its lust for power, has accomplished what the eternal enemies of the country could not do in 75 years.”
The ISPR added: “Without caring about its own reputation, the army showed extreme patience, tolerance and restraint in the wider interest of the country. Army’s mature response thwarted this conspiracy”.
In this respect Chief of Army Staff Gen. Syed Asim Munir presided over the Special Corps Commanders Conference held at GHQ on May 15, 2023. Army top brass “expressed anguish over well-coordinated attacks on military installations—observed the situation created to achieve vested political interests—decided that those involved in attacks on military installations, personnel and equipment during violence created on May 9, would be tried under relevant laws of Pakistan Army, including Pakistan Army Act and Official Secrets Act”, said a press release issued by the ISPR.
Premier Shehbaz Sharif expressed grief over the incidents and condemned the “actions of Khan and his followers”, whom he believes acted as Pakistan’s. His party’s other leaders also allegedly stated that Khan was responsible for the barbaric act of torching the Corps Commander House in Lahore as he planned and instigated the act of arson.
Under Section 3 of Maintenance of Public Order (MPO), and creating a law and order situation, countrywide, Police have arrested more than 4000 individuals and suspects regarding riots of May 9 and May 10. As part of the crackdown top PTI leaders, including Shah Mahmood Qureshi were detained.
But, the PTI leaders as well as Imran Khan clarified that they had called for peaceful protests, but some miscreants who were penetrated in the protest rallies conducted violent assaults on public and state buildings as well as the military installations. PTI Chairman Khan also demanded a Supreme Court-led independent investigation in this connection.
As regards Imran Khan’s release, leaders of the PDM-the ruling coalition parties accused the three-member bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan led by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial of favouring Khan.
In her tweet, Maryam Nawaz, the senior vice president of the PML-N pointed out that the chief justice Bandial seemed exceedingly pleased with meeting an individual [Khan] who was accused of embezzling Rs. 60 billion from the national treasury.
Nevertheless, on May 9 and May 10, the country faced multiple losses of various kinds--billions of rupees due to the PTI protests. The all-important deal with the IMF, on the table, has been pushed farther away.
In the recent past, a tussle between the parliament and Supreme Court has already started when PDM leaders and lawmakers openly spoke against the apex court and passed legislation/bills in curtailing its powers, while delivering threatening speeches.
In a major development, at a peaceful protest sit-in (Dharna) outside the Supreme Court on May 15, this year, the leadership of the PDM targeted the apex court. Speaking to a massive crowd Maryam Nawaz especially criticised Chief Justice Bandial, and two other judges as the facilitators of Imran Khan.
PDM chief and head of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUL-F) Maulana Fazlur Rehman who had announced the protest sit-in outside the Supreme Court of Pakistan had clarified that it would continue till the resignation of Chief Justice Bandial. But the PDM called off the (Dharna) on the same day (May 15).
Notably, the above-mentioned Corps Commanders Conference also emphasised the need for national consensus amongst all stakeholders to address the ongoing political instability as a priority to restore public confidence, reinvigorate economic activity and strengthen the democratic process.
Hence, showing flexibility, PDM and PTI should restart talks about conducting the general elections in Pakistan and must fix an appropriate date in this regard.
In the meantime, former PM Imran Khan on May 17, 2023, invited all stakeholders to sit and talk, as he also claimed that under the pretense of the caretaker government that 40 terrorists who were behind army installations’ attacks on the May 9 have taken shelter at his residence in Lahore’s Zaman Park—there would be his another arrest during a raid.

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