• May 9 to be observed as ‘black day’; political stakeholders urged to avoid confrontation
• Civil-military huddle stresses ‘full implementation’ of social media rules to tackle ‘propaganda’
• Amnesty opposes civilians’ trial in military courts
ISLAMABAD: The civil leadership and military top brass on Tuesday endorsed a decision made a day earlier during a meeting of corps commanders to invoke the Army Act and Official Secrets Act against people suspected of involvement in the May 9 riots which damaged the state and private properties across Pakistan.
The National Security Committee chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also decided to lay hands within 72 hours on all those involved in the violent attacks, their facilitators, and leaders on whose instigation these people had committed vandalism.
The proposed move to try arsonists under the Army Act has come under severe criticism, with rights groups asking the government to refrain from it. International human rights group Amnesty International also expressed concerns.
It said “civilians must not be tried under military laws” in Pakistan as trying civilians in military courts is contrary to international law.
The meeting was attended by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Principal Secretary to PM Dr Tauqir Shah and others.
Chief of Army Staff Gen Syed Asim Munir, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza and air force and naval chiefs also attended the meeting.
The civilian leadership expressed solidarity with the armed forces and martyrs and decided to observe May 9 as “black day”. During the top-level huddle, it was also decided that all political forces should resolve their difference through dialogue and avoid confrontation.
An official announcement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said the NSC endorsed the decision reached at the corps commanders’ meeting to try the ‘attackers’ under the Army Act and Official Secrets Act.
The committee pledged that no leniency would be shown towards those who attacked defence installations under any agenda and vowed to bring them to justice.
The official announcement said the meeting resolved to bring all the elements involved in May 9 riots and arsons to justice as no desecration of security installation, public properties and national dignity would be tolerated.
The forum called for national unity and harmony amid a complex geo-strategic situation caused by the global political confrontation as well as the enemies’ policy of instability.
Social media rules
The meeting instructed for full implementation of social media rules and regulations to overcome the “propaganda patronised by foreign elements through local facilitation, and penalise the perpetrators”.
“They (demonstrators) will be nabbed in 72 hours,” said Prime Minister Sharif while speaking at the NSC meeting.
“The planners and leaders of the May 9 riots who attacked military installations and disrespected our martyrs will be punished and brought to justice. Our nation of 220 million has demanded that those who are sinful, in any regard, should be punished so that such an incident does not take place ever again,” he added.
The PM called for chalking out measures — legal, constitutional and administrative — to prevent a repeat of the May 9 events. “Millions of people are angry and upset even today,” he said, adding that from May 9 onwards, some “gruesome events” have taken place which have shamed Pakistan.
“Whatever happened on May 9 in this country, it will be remembered as the darkest chapter in this country’s history,” he added. About the attack on the Corps Commander House, the premier said, “Jinnah House is not just a building … it housed the sons that protected Pakistan. But they destroyed it — in fact, reduced it to ashes.”
“I have told the authorities concerned not to show any leniency towards those involved in destruction even if I ask for any favour and not to punish any innocent even on my orders,” the premier was quoted as saying.
On the other hand, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah claimed on a TV show that the government has proof that the demonstrators were trained at Zaman Park residence of Mr Khan.
Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2023