Pakistan defense minister calls ex-PM Khan ‘instigator’ of army attacks, doesn’t rule out military trial

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif on Thursday called former prime minister Imran Khan the “instigator”; of rioters who attacked state properties and military installations earlier this month to protest the opposition leader’s arrest. court.

Khan’s detention in a land fraud case on 9 May was met by several days of violent protests by his supporters, who torched private and government cars and buildings, including military facilities.

Several of Khan’s close associates, as well as thousands of supporters of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, were subsequently arrested, and the military subsequently announced that those found involved in the violence would be prosecuted under relevant Pakistani laws. including the Army Act.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government also said this week it was considering banning PTI.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News on Thursday, the Pakistani defense minister said that only those suspects would be prosecuted under military laws against whom “absolutely absurd or convincing evidence” of inciting attacks on military installations was found Were.

“There would be very few people who would be prosecuted under that law,” he said.

“People, maybe two or three or four people, who were leading those people or who were instigating those people.”

The minister’s comments came after a Pakistani court in the eastern city of Lahore on Thursday handed over 16 civilians to the military for trial over their suspected involvement in violent pro-Khan protests.

The defense minister also did not rule out the possibility of Khan being prosecuted under the Army Act and facing a military court.

Asif said, ‘He is an instigator.’ “The evidence has to be evaluated, and the government’s counsel or legal advisor will look into it.”

Responding to his statement on Wednesday that the government was considering banning PTI, Asif raised the question of banning the party because of the “unimaginable” attacks, comparing the violence of May 9 to 9/11 in the US. Was. on military assets.

“It is not expected of a Pakistani, or a Pakistani political party, or a Pakistani group, never – at least I cannot imagine that supporters of a political party led by its leader (Khan), or manipulated by the leader done, his political followers, he asked them to attack military installations,” Asif said.

He, however, added that Parliament will be consulted if the government decides to initiate the process of banning PTI.

“There is a process (of banning a party), of course, whenever that process starts, if it starts, we will bring it to Parliament and we will try, and obviously, judicial process for it Might as well,” said the minister.

Asif said that he was not personally in favor of banning political parties, “but everyone has a red line, even a person like me or an institution or a country, and when those red lines are crossed When crossed, it has to be reacted to.”

Commenting on Khan’s key allies leaving the party, the minister denied that it was an attempt to “disintegrate” the PTI.

Khan has said that his allies are being forced under pressure from the government and the army to dismantle the PTI before the elections due later this year.

This week, in what was widely seen as a softening of his stance, Khan announced he was willing to set up a committee to hold talks with “powerful people”, a possible reference to the military. With which the mines are continuously deteriorating. deadlock.

The cricket legend-turned-politician came to power in a 2018 general election widely believed to have been rigged in his favor by the army – both allegations he denies – but has since been sidelined with the army for the last There has been a very public fallout. In a parliamentary vote of no confidence in April, he alleged a conspiracy by the US, the military and his political rivals in Pakistan. All deny the claims.

When Asif was asked whether the government was ready to accept Khan’s latest offer for talks, he said, “We need a broad consensus among the various powerhouses who are part of our ruling elite or power structure.” ” Parties including Khan’s PTI should be involved in building a consensus.

The Defense Minister said, ‘There should be a national consensus on most issues.’ “We have to have a new social contract, not a consensus among politicians or the judiciary or one or two other institutions like the establishment.”