Pakistan to try those who attacked military under army law: PM

The government’s decision comes amid mounting criticism of its earlier announcement to try all the protesters under the draconian law.

epa10618566 People check a burnt vehicle a day after violent protests broke out across the country following the arrest of Imran Khan, former prime minister and head of the opposition party Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, in Peshawar, the provincial capital of KPK province
People check a vehicle burnt during violent protests following the arrest of ex-PM Imran Khan [File: Bilawal Arbab/EPA]

Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif says people who attacked military properties during anti-government protests earlier this month will be tried under the country’s army law.

The nuclear-armed South Asian country witnessed deadly protests following the dramatic arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan on corruption charges from a court in capital Islamabad on May 9.

During Khan’s 48-hour detention, his supporters stormed government vehicles and buildings, including military properties, and put some of them on fire. At least 10 people were killed in the demonstrations and more than 4,000 arrested.

The government pledged to crush the protests by using the draconian Pakistan Army Act, which experts and rights groups say denies citizens a fair trial.

Amid mounting criticism of his government’s decision to try all the protesters under the military law, Sharif on Sunday said people who allegedly attacked civilian properties will be tried under the “anti-terrorism” laws.

“We made some decisions and agreed that those civilians involved in attacking civilian installations will be tried under anti-terrorism act. Those protesters who attacked military installations, we will try them under the relevant laws given in the constitution,” he said during a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) in the eastern city of Lahore.

Global rights bodies such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have urged the Pakistani government to respect the rights of the people arrested during the protests.

Meanwhile, Khan, who heads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, condemned the government’s crackdown on his party and its supporters.

In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Khan said, “Everything is being done to dismantle our democracy.”

“My entire senior leadership is in jail,” he told the United States-based broadcaster, adding that he could also be arrested on Tuesday.

“I am going to Islamabad for a bail on Tuesday, and there’s an 80 percent chance I will be arrested. There is no rule of law,” the 70-year-old politician said.

Khan was removed from power in April last year after he lost a confidence vote in parliament. Since then, he has been demanding early national elections, otherwise due by October this year.

The PTI chief has repeatedly alleged the government is colluding with the powerful military to keep him out of the electoral process.

“My worry is that there won’t be any elections even then [in October] unless they are clear my party does not win,” he said.

However, Khan added that he “never had a problem” with the army. “How can you win by taking on your own army? It’s a pyrrhic victory,” he told CNN.

Source: Al Jazeera