The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said on Wednesday that May 9 will be remembered as a “black chapter”, referring to the protests “targeting army property and installations” that took place after PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s arrest a day earlier.
“We will not allow anyone to take the law into their hands,” the military’s media wing said in a statement issued today.
It stated that Imran Khan was arrested from the Islamabad High Court (IHC) “in line with the NAB statement and law”. “Immediately after this arrest, attacks were perpetrated on the army’s properties and installations while slogans anti-army slogans were raised.”
The ISPR said that on the one hand, “these miscreants evoke the nation’s emotions for achieving their limited and selfish objectives and on the other hand, they deceive people, continuing to highlight the army’s importance”.
“This is an example of hypocrisy,” it stated.
The military’s media wing said that “this group wearing a political cloak” has done what enemies could not do in 75 years, all “in the lust for power”.
“The army showed patience and restraint and exercised extreme tolerance, not even caring about its reputation, in the larger interest of the country,” it said.
“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 Army’s mature response thwarted this conspiracy. We are well aware that behind it were orders, directives and complete pre-planning by some sinister party leadership,” the statement added.
The ISPR said that the facilitators, planners and political activists involved in the protests had been identified, asserting that strict action would be taken against them “as per the law and all these evil elements will now be responsible for the consequences”.
“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 army’s media wing added.
The ISPR statement comes a day after the PTI chief was whisked away by paramilitary forces from the premises of the IHC in a case pertaining to the Al-Qadir Trust. He has now been handed over to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for eight days.
Following Imran’s arrest, massive protests broke out across the country, with a number of demonstrators gathering outside military cantonments, General Headquarters (GHQ) Rawalpindi, and offices of the Frontier Crops. A number of anti-military hashtags also started trending on social media.
‘Act of terrorism’
Later, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also echoed the army’s sentiment, saying that damaging public property was an “act of terrorism” and “enmity” towards the country.
In an address to the nation, the premier said “terrorists and elements who are enemies of the state” should immediately desist from their “anti-state activities”, warning that the “miscreants” would otherwise be dealt with an iron hand.
“They will be given an exemplary punishment.”
The premier added that the “protection of the state and ideology of Pakistan is more precious to us than our lives and we will not allow anyone to conspire against it”.
“Nor will we let their nefarious designs succeed,” he added.
The prime minister stressed that the “real role” and responsibility of the political leadership was not to let party workers “trespass legal boundaries during any arrests”.
However, “the PTI’s [members] and party chairman Imran Khan have committed the unforgivable crime of enmity against the state through their actions after the former premier’s arrest,” he said.
ISPR statement contradicts facts: PTI
Responding to the ISPR, the PTI issued a statement saying that the former’s version of events “contradicts the facts”, adding that it was based on a “poor understanding” of the situation on the ground.
It termed the ISPR statement a “sad collection of hatred and revenge-based narratives” against the PTI.
The PTI said that it was a democratic party in its structure, ideology and manifesto and the protection of political, economic and social rights was its aim.
It said the public reaction seen after Imran’s arrest was due to many reasons which had created “bitterness” in the people such as deviating from the Constitution, violation of constitutional rights, sharp distortion in the balance of power between state institutions, extrajudicial measures, attempts to crush the PTI leadership and more.
It termed Imran’s arrest as “illegal, unjustified and outrageous”.