• Shehbaz says protesters who vandalised civilian infrastructure to face trial under anti-terrorism laws
• Kh Asif rules out formation of new military courts; PML-N senator seeks swift action over May 9 violence

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: The government has decided to prosecute protesters who attacked civilian infrastructures under the anti-terrorism law while those who vandalised military property would be put on trial under the Army Act.

Initially, the government had planned to proceed against those involved in the violence erupted after the arrest of PTI chief Imran Khan in military courts, as was evident by decisions made by the National Security Committee.

The NSC had endorsed the decision of the top brass to act against rioters under the Army Act. However, it seems that criticism from national and international groups has led the government to make a distinction between the two groups.

Addressing a meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said those who attacked civilian infrastructure would be prosecuted in the anti-terrorism courts while cases involving military installations and property, such as the Corps Commander House, would be tried under relevant laws.

According to the prime minister, May 9 was the “darkest day in the [country’s] history” when miscreants allegedly belonging to the PTI set fire to the Corps Commander House in Lahore. He equated this with the attack on Quaid-i-Azam Residency in Ziarat in 2013.

“On May 9, Imran Niazi and his followers stoked terrorism and violence that amounted to anti-state acts,” the premier said, as he drew comparison between the PTI and the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan over attacks on military installations.

He recalled that militants had attacked a naval facility in Karachi in the past while the PTI supporters damaged a plane outside the Mianwali airbase which had been used to defend the country.

Unfortunately, these Pakistanis turned into enemies of the country and carried out attacks targeting the Radio Pakistan and several other buildings across the country, said Mr Sharif. “Such agonising incidents will continue to haunt the nation,” he added.

Talking about progress made on the legal proceedings against rioters, he reiterated that it has been decided that anyone involved in the incidents of “planning, instigating, sloganeering, and vandalism” would not escape the iron clutches of the law.

Naqvi briefs PM

The premier also chaired a meeting to review various legal aspects pertaining to the May 9 protests and the subsequent action against protesters.

Punjab Caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi briefed the participants about the steps so far taken against the culprits.

The meeting decided that cases of the culprits who had damaged and set on fire public property and infrastructure would be sent to anti-terrorism courts, while those rioters who damaged military infrastructure would be tried in military courts under the Army Act.

Those who attended the meeting included Azam Nazir Tarar and Musaddiq Malik, Ataullah Tarar and Salman Rafique.

PM Sharif was also briefed about various cases being adjudicated by the Supreme Court. He was quoted as saying that the Jinnah House arson case would never be forgiven though no innocent would be penalised.

PKLI close to PM’s heart

In a series of tweets, Mr Sharif said it was his cherished desire to transform the Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute (PKLI) into a splendid institute like Johns Hopkins, but Imran Khan and a former chief justice had caused huge damage to it. He passed these remarks after paying a visit to the hospital.

The premier said he wanted the PKLI to become an identity for Pakistan in the rest of the world for the treatment facilities for kidney and liver diseases.

“But alas! Imran Niazi and a former chief justice out of their politics and personal interests targeted this mission and inflicted huge damage,” he said in a tweet posted in Urdu.

The prime minister, expressing his resolve, said these things would not deter his government and it was his “firm conviction that Allah Almighty supported those who worked with a passion to serve humanity”.

For transformation and restoration of PKLI into a world-class health facility, they were striving and utilising their energies, he said while referring to his visit to the facility where he reviewed different measures in this regard. The prime minister also appreciated Dr Saeed Akhtar and his team for leading the efforts to achieve these objectives and assured his complete support to them.

No new military court on the cards

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, who was in Sialkot, said there would be no new military courts to prosecute rioters, rather those already working under the Army Act would try the suspects for attacks on army buildings and installations.

Speaking to participants of a rally held to show solidarity with the armed forces, Mr Asif claimed that a political leader and his coterie were targeting the armed forces and inviting “foreigners to join this unholy campaign”.

On the other hand, the PML-N is ‘anxiously’ waiting to see the leadership of PTI behind bars.

In a tweet, Senator Irfan Siddiqui expressed his frustration regarding delay in the legal action against the perpetrators, saying 12 days had passed but “we are still playing with words” instead of ensuring legal proceedings against the suspects.

Expressing dissatisfaction at the pace of action against the suspects by his party’s government, he recalled that neither any joint investigation team nor any commission had been formed by the UK government after London riots in 2011 and claimed that even an “11-year-old girl was among those convicted” by courts.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2023

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