• Ministers defend Imran’s arrest as lawful, vow action against rioters
• Rana Sana refutes allegations former premier was tortured
• Shehbaz extends London stay by a day ‘on Nawaz’s instructions’
ISLAMABAD: An hour before the arrest of PTI Chairman Imran Khan, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday accused Mr Khan of maligning the army without proof, running a media campaign against martyred troops and using religion for political gains.
Meanwhile, the interior and law ministers claimed that the government had no role in what is being dubbed by PTI leaders “vindictive action” and that Mr Khan’s arrest had been made as per law by executing the warrants issued by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Prime Minister Sharif, who has extended his London stay for another day, said in a detailed tweet directed at Mr Khan: “I have no doubt that your politics is defined by blatant lies, untruths, U-turns, and vicious attacks on institutions.”
“Imran Khan while on a trial for corruption is claiming legitimacy to overturn the legal and political system,” he said, alleging that Mr Khan was trying to bend the judiciary to his whims and behaving as if rules didn’t apply to him.
Mr Sharif pointed out that maligning the military as an institution was a recurring pattern in Mr Khan’s politics after his last year’s ouster as prime minister through a parliamentary no-confidence vote.
“Did you not resort to constant mudslinging of the leadership of the army and intelligence agency much before the Wazirabad attack?” Mr Sharif said, putting counter-questions to Mr Khan against his earlier tweets.
He said the PTI chief refused the offer of cooperation from the federal government and boycotted the legal proceedings.
Mr Khan, he said, was never interested in finding the truth about the attack but used the incident for petty political objectives.
“What legal route did you adopt other than hurling threats and making baseless allegations almost on a daily basis?” he asked Mr Khan.
He questioned at whose behest the savaging social media campaign against the martyrs of the armed forces was launched after a helicopter crash in Balochistan.
“Which party did the troll brigade belong to that mocked the martyrs, which was a new low and unimaginable in our politics and culture? With these subversive and treacherous acts on your part, do we need an enemy?” he said.
Mr Sharif said, “Who used religion for political purposes by describing the political agitation in religious terms, a cunning and self-serving attempt at exposing political opponents to violence at the hands of your supporters.”
He recalled that Mr Khan’s party leaders condoned, justified, and even celebrated the incident of harassment and intimidation of an official delegation, including a female minister, in the courtyard of Masjid-i-Nabwi (PBUH) by disregarding all norms of reverence and devoutness.
“As for your assertion of Pakistan becoming a ‘jungle’, I advise you not to go there, for the facts are often bitter and disastrous. Let us keep this for another day,” he said.
PM extends UK visit
Later, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Sharif had extended his stay in London by one day for consultations on important political and national issues on the instructions of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif.
In a tweet, she said the prime minister would now leave for home on Wednesday.
‘Govt has no control over NAB’
Meanwhile, federal interior and law ministers insisted that incriminating evidence of Mr Khan’s involvement in corruption was available.
While the PTI condemned the arrest and called for a countrywide shutdown and street protests against the arrest, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, at separate pressers on Tuesday, declared that nobody would be allowed to harm public or private property under the garb of peaceful protests.
The interior minister said NAB was an independent institution and the government had no control over it, nor had it attempted to do so. “I, as the interior minister, can say on oath that I have never met a NAB officer, nor have I taken a briefing on this case,” he claimed.
Responding to a question, Mr Sanaullah also rebuffed PTI’s allegations about vindication and asserted that there was evidence of “documented corruption” in this matter though there were several corruption cases and several NAB inquiries underway against Mr Khan.
Giving details of the Al-Qadir Trust case, the corruption reference in which Mr Khan was arrested, the interior minister regretted that the Supreme Court had not taken suo motu notice of the matter involving the source of the amount, whom it belonged to and why it was coming to Pakistan.
He then dared all protesting leaders of the PTI to tell the names of the trustees and provide a money trail for the property bought in the trust’s name.
He claimed that evidence was available for the entire chain of events he talked about.
Also, the Toshakhana allegations against the PTI chief were “proved”, he said, reiterating that Mr Khan was “committing theft” when false cases were being filed against PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and his family members.
He said NAB had issued notices to the PTI chief regarding the corruption cases against him and asked him to present himself and become a part of the investigation. “It was necessary for him to present himself and give answers, but he preferred not to do so.
“Mr Khan rather challenged those notices in the high court and ultimately the high court said that the [legal] process in accordance with law could not be stopped and he should become a part of the investigation and submit his response, yet he did not feel it appropriate to become a part of the investigation because of which NAB had to execute his arrest,” Mr Sanaullah explained.
The minister said there was a little resistance shown at the time of Mr Khan’s arrest by his gunmen, but no one was hurt during the arrest.
About Mr Khan’s former adviser on accountability Shehzad Akbar, the interior minister said he would be brought back to the country and the government would facilitate NAB if it chose to act against him. He believed some of Mr Khan’s cabinet members at the time should be made part of the investigation for sharing some responsibility in the matter.
While warning PTI protesters against creating unrest and blocking traffic on roads, he said he had instructed all the provincial chief secretaries and inspector generals of police to strictly act against those who attempt to create a law-and-order situation.
“They have no right to do this and if anyone tries to do so, then the law will be implemented against them with its full might.”
Asked about the role of the Rangers in the arrest, Mr Sanaullah said the force was “constantly deployed” in Islamabad and provided support in the arrest to execute warrants and prevent any untoward incident.
Mr Sanaullah also tweeted earlier to refute the allegations that Mr Khan was tortured while being arrested.
Separately, Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar told a presser that the PTI chief’s arrest was made as per law by executing the arrest warrant and said a seven-member medical board also examined him immediately after his arrest.
He said Mr Khan would be presented before court to seek remand and it was up to the court to accept or reject the request. It was also the court’s prerogative to determine the remand period, he added.
About demonstrations by PTI supporters, Mr Tarar said holding protests was a fundamental right of every individual, but civilised nations keep those peaceful.
He said PTI supporters and leaders should let the law take its course instead of settling court matters on the roads. He also declared that the government would not allow anybody to harm public or private property.
Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2023