South Asia

Pakistan Army to Prosecute Those Responsible for Violence Under Anti-Espionage and Military Laws

The move has been denounced by human rights defenders, lawyers, and opposition politicians.

New Delhi: Top officers of the Pakistan Army said at a special forum in Rawalpindi on Monday, May 15, that those who damaged military installations during the country’s recent violence will be punished under anti-espionage and military laws.

Held at the army’s headquarters, the Corps Commanders Conference (CCC) was presided over by Chief of Army Staff General Syed Asim Munir and received briefings about the law and order situation in the country.

“The forum expressed firm resolve that those involved in these heinous crimes against the military installations and [personnel]/equipment will be brought to justice through trials under relevant laws of Pakistan including the Pakistan Army Act and [the Official Secrets Act],” a press release by the army’s media wing said.

Human rights defenders have criticised the army’s decision to prosecute civilians under military laws. Amnesty International pointed out that doing so is against international law.

“Military courts in Pakistan are not independent courts and are specialised, purely functional, and designed to maintain discipline within the armed forces. Amnesty International has documented a catalogue of human right violations stemming from trying civilians in military courts in Pakistan, including flagrant disregard for due process,” the NGO said.

The army’s decision was also condemned by opposition politicians, lawyers, and the Aurat March social movement.

Pakistan is gripped by unrest as security forces and former prime Minister Imran Khan’s supporters clash over Khan’s arrest on corruption charges on May 9.

Protestors were filmed breaking into an army housing compound, stealing peacocks and golf clubs, and smashing rifles and chandeliers inside the army corps commander’s home. One man who stole a peacock was shown on BBC News as saying that he was taking the bird as it was ultimately “paid for by the people.”

The army condemned the destruction of its property as a plot to instigate it.

“The forum was briefed that a well-coordinated arson plan, involving desecration of Shuhada pictures, monuments, burning down of historical buildings and vandalism of military installations was executed to malign the institution and provoke it towards giving an impulsive reaction.”

“Restraint will no longer be exercised against perpetrators, spoilers and violators who attack military installations and setups under any circumstances,” it said in the same press release.

Over 2,800 arrests have been made as of Saturday.

A day after his arrest on May 9, Khan was handed over to the National Accountability Bureau’s custody for eight days. He has since been let off on bail.

The agency is probing allegations that Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi accepted money and land as kickbacks for transferring public money to a company run by the real-estate tycoon Malik Riaz. This case is called the Al Qadir trust case.

The Al Qadir trust case is only one of over a hundred corruption cases that have been filed against Khan after he was ousted from power in April last year after losing a vote of confidence in parliament.

He took office in 2018 after being elected on promises to raise a new class of ‘clean’ politicians, but after a falling out with the country’s military – with whose support he is believed to have won elections – and defections from the PTI, he was forced to leave office, despite attempting to dissolve parliament and calling snap elections.