ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday vowed to treat rioters with iron hands, as the government deployed troops in Islamabad, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to maintain law and order following violent protests that erupted across the country after the arrest of PTI chief Imran Khan.

“These terrorist and anti-state elements are being warned to desist from taking law into their hands, otherwise they will be dealt with iron hands. Safeguarding the motherland and its ideology is more precious than their lives. We will not let their nefarious designs succeed,” the prime minister said in an address to the nation.

He said the arrest of any leader was never good news but Imran Khan and PTI did not adopt a legal way, rather committed an unforgivable offence of enmity with the country by ransacking sensitive state and private installations.

The prime minister said the rule of law meant facing all the cases legally. Inflicting damages to public and private properties amounted to terrorist acts, he added.

“We have not seen this in 75 years of history of the country that they (PTI workers) attacked state properties like enemies, people were besieged on the roads and vehicles, ambulances were gutted and Swat Motorway (interchange) was des­troyed,” the premier added.

“All are equal before the law; these are the Islamic teachings and the beauty of democracy,” he said while advising the PTI chairman to face the NAB cases legally.

Says damaging public and private properties amounted to terrorist acts

Mr Sharif lauded the role of the army, Rangers and police for showing restraint during violent demonstrations by the PTI workers and protecting people during indiscriminate shooting by the protesters with guns.

He also appreciated the nation for what he called “rejecting the PTI decisions”.

The PM said the NAB arrested Imran Khan according to the law for his involvement in the graft case. “The NAB arrested Imran Khan legally and on the basis of corruption and corrupt practice in the Al Qadir Trust case, involving a whopping amount of Rs60 billion (£190 million),” he added.

Referring to the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007 and the arrest of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif along with his daughter Maryam Nawaz during the PTI government, the prime minister said on both occasions workers and leaders of PPP and PML-N had shown maturity and avoid any anti-state protest.

“On the killing of Ms Bhutto his husband Asif Ali Zardari had eliminated all anti-state designs by raising a slogan of Pakistan Khappay (Long Live Pakistan),” he added.

The prime minister said he had offered PTI many times for talks, especially for resolving national issues including amendments in NAB laws and negotiations with International Monetary Fund, but all the time rulers were called thieves and looters.

He said the incumbent government had managed to make amendments to NAB laws by curtailing the period of physical remand of the accused from 90 to 14 days and giving him a right of appeal. “Today Imran Khan is the first person who gets benefit from the amendments (as he was sent on physical remand only for eight days),” he added.

They added that the government took the decision to exercise the powers conferred under Article 245 (functions of armed forces) of the Constitution and Section 4 (3) (ii) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 (to discharge such functions as specified in the said act).

Deployment of troops

As the federal cabinet decided to call in the army in the urban areas, troops were deployed in Islamabad, Punjab and KP in aid of civil power.

A notification issued by the interior ministry said the exact numbers of troops/assets, date and area of deployment will be worked out by the provincial governments in consultation with the General Headquarters (GHQ).

The ministry’s notifications pertaining to the capital city and the provinces of Punjab and KP said the federal government was “pleased to authorise the deployment of army troops and assets for maintaining the law and order situation across Punjab in aid of civil power”.

Immediately after the interior ministry authorised the deployment of the army in Islamabad, the capital police said that Pakistan Army troops were reaching several locations in Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2023

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