New Delhi: As violent protests continued across Pakistan against former prime minister Imran Khan’s arrest, the country’s political and military leadership on Wednesday, May 10 decried the targeting of public property and warned of severe consequences.
According to the Pakistan newspaper Dawn, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that damaging public property is an “act of terrorism” and shows “enmity” towards the country. He accused Khan of targeting political opponents during his tenure as prime minister. He said Pakistan’s political history had been “very bitter” and political acts of revenge will never render good results.
Meanwhile, Pakistan military’s media wing Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) struck an authoritative note, saying that May 9, the day Khan was arrested, will be remembered as a “black chapter” in the country’s history because of the targeting of army property and installations.
Saying the military had no role to play in the PTI chairman’s arrest, the ISPR statement accused Khan’s party of hypocrisy. It said “this group wearing a political cloak” has done what enemies could not do in 75 years, all “in the lust for power”, according to Dawn.
Khan was arrested on Tuesday in a graft case before he was set to appear in the Islamabad high court. On Wednesday, he was sent to eight-day custody of the anti-corruption agency National Accountability Bureau. 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.
In a separate development, another court also framed charges against Khan in a second graft case where he is accused of illegally profiting from the sale of gifts he received when he was the head of state. The second case is called the Toshakhana case.
Prime Minister Sharif said on Wednesday that the NAB has “all evidence” in the Al Qadir Trust case against Khan. He questioned how the PTI cabinet was kept “completely in the dark” about Pakistani Rs 60 billion disappearing from the national treasury”.
Army says protests result of ‘nefarious planning’
“The army showed patience and restraint and exercised extreme tolerance, not even caring about its reputation, in the larger interest of the country. With this situation created under nefarious planning, a heinous attempt was made to make the army give an immediate reaction, which could be used for nefarious political purposes,” the ISPR statement said.
The agency said that the “facilitators, planners and political activists” who were involved in the protests have been identified, adding that “strict action would be taken against them as per the law and all these evil elements will now be responsible for the consequences”.
The warning comes as the Army has been called in to restore normalcy in many parts of the country, including the capital city of Islamabad and the Punjab province.
“Any further attack on the army, including all law enforcement agencies, military and state installations and properties will be severely retaliated, the responsibility of which will be on this very group that wants to push Pakistan into a civil war and has expressed it multiple times. No one can be allowed to incite people and take the law into their hands,” the military’s media wing added.
The warning, however, did not seem to deter protesters, with the Islamabad police saying that a police station in Pakistan’s capital was being set on fire and an armoured personnel carrier was burnt. The PTI, meanwhile, accused the police in Lahore of using tear gas shells and water cannons against protesters near the party’s office.