No leniency towards May 9 arsonists, vows PM

Published May 23, 2023
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addresses the National Assembly session on Monday. —PID photo
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addresses the National Assembly session on Monday. —PID photo

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Monday adopted a resolution “vehemently condemning” the May 9 incidents, besides calling for prosecution of “arsonists” under the country’s existing laws as Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif declared that no leniency would be shown towards those involved in the attacks on military installations during the protests held in the aftermath of the arrest of PTI Chairman Imran Khan.

After passage of the resolution presented by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s speech, Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf opened the floor for a general debate on the May 9 incidents as lawmakers lashed out at Mr Khan and accused him of damaging state institutions and causing chaos in the country out of his ‘lust for the power’.

Both Mr Sharif, as well as the defence minister, categorically refuted the “propaganda of the PTI chairman” that the government planned to bring new legislation to punish him and his party members, stating that those involved in the attacks on military installations and public and private properties would be tried under Anti-Terrorist Act (ATA) 1997, Army Act 1952 and Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) 1860.

The lone voice of opposition to the government’s decision to hold trial of civilians under the Army Act came from independent MNA Ali Wazir who feared that only the innocent and poor PTI workers would suffer whereas those having connections with the army generals and other influential would come out clean after tendering an apology.

NA adopts resolution ‘condemning’ violence, calling for prosecuting culprits under existing laws; Ali Wazir opposes trial of civilians under Army Act

In his speech, he also demanded an inquiry into the alleged killing of women and children during aerial bombardment in Tank area on Monday.

No personal vendetta: Shehbaz

Taking the floor after the defence minister delivered a fiery speech against Mr Khan, the PM said the country could not survive if any leniency was shown to the perpetrators of arson attacks.

“We don’t have any personal vendetta. But those who desecrated the martyrs, Ghazis, and their monuments, and burnt the Jinnah House … they will have to be tried under the law. And if any leniency is shown to them, the country will not survive,” said Mr Sharif, making it clear that the cases pertaining to the attack on civilian infrastructure would be tried under the ATA, but those relating to the military installations would be tried by military courts.

During his speech, Mr Sharif read out a tweet of Mr Khan in which the latter had refuted the reports that he as the prime minister had removed Gen Asim Munir, the present army chief, from the post of director-general of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) for pointing out corruption being allegedly committed by his wife Bushra Bibi.

Terming it a “blatant lie”, Mr Sharif said it was in his knowledge that Mr Khan had transferred Gen Asim only because the latter had pointed out corruption of his family members.

Also, Mr Sharif added, NAB arrested Mr Khan in a case involving Rs60 billion corruption.

Referring to the recent leaked audio call of Mr Khan’s conversation with a US Congress member, the PM said after undermining the Pakistan-US relations through the allegations of regime change conspiracy, the PTI chairman was begging for help from the US.

Mr Sharif told the house that earlier in the day he had inaugurated National Games in Quetta, which were being held after a gap of 17 years. In his inaugural speech there, too, he referred to the May 9 arson attacks, stating that the miscreants torched Quaid’s house in Lahore like the terrorists had set the Quaid’s Residency in Ziarat on fire.

He said they should take steps within the confines of laws and Constitution so that such incidents could not be repeated.

Earlier, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said that the May 9 rioters would be punished under the laws already given in the statute book and under which the courts had already gave rulings and punished culprits. He also castigated Mr Khan for seeking help from the Americans, stating the PTI chief was seeking interference from a country whose own human rights record was not good.

He also criticised Mr Khan for opposing the government’s move to constitute a three-judge commission on audio leaks. He said the commission had been formed with the intention to clear the facts and reveal the truth behind audio leaks and expose the perpetrators. He said the Mr Khan had challenged the commission, arguing that it was the job of the chief justice of Pakistan.

“The PTI would have been satisfied if honourable justices Muneeb, Mazahar Naqvi and Ijazul Ahsan would have been included in the commission,” he said.

The minister said Mr Khan had yet to condemn the May 9 incidents without mincing his words. He alleged that besides two sisters of Mr Khan, Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed, Usman Dar, Ejaz Chaudhary, Shehryar Afridi and Yasmin Rashid were involved in the attacks and audio and their video clips were available.

Resolutions

Through the resolution, the lawmakers termed the May 9 incidents “shocking, brazen, heart wrenching and shameless.” The lawmakers expressed their full faith in and complete solidarity and support for the armed forces of Pakistan and resolved “9th May be reckoned as Black Day”.

“The house resolves that all abettors, planners, facilitators and those directly or indirectly involved in arson, attacks on military installations as well as public and private properties should be prosecuted or tried under the existing laws of the country, including, ATA 1997, Army Act 1952 and PPC 1860.”

It also urged “all relevant authorities to implement social media rules and regulations in order to tackle propaganda being unleashed against the country’s institutions, both from within and outside of Pakistan, under the patronage and facilitation from multiple players. Those involved in such propaganda campaigns should strictly be dealt with as per law.”

The NA also adopted a resolution to condemn suicide attack on convoy of JI chief Sirajul Haq in Zhob, Balochistan. The resolution was tabled by JI lawmaker Abdul Akbar Chitrali.

The assembly will again meet at 1.30pm today (Tuesday).

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2023

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