Khawaja Asif says govt mulling banning PTI over May 9 violence

Published May 24, 2023
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif talks to media persons on Wednesday. — DawnNewsTV
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif talks to media persons on Wednesday. — DawnNewsTV

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said on Wednesday that the government was mulling banning the PTI over the events of May 9, when violent protests erupted across the country following former prime minister and party chairman Imran Khan’s arrest.

During the protests, which lasted for two days, social media was flooded with footage of a mob clashing with police in Karachi, attacking and entering the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and vandalising the Lahore corps commander’s residence.

Meanwhile, state broadcaster Radio Pakistan’s building was also set on fire in Peshawar.

The “violence” was strongly condemned by the country’s civil and military leadership. They also declared May 9 was a “Black Day” and decided to try all the “miscreants” under army and anti-terrorism laws.

The government has previously said that banning the PTI was the only solution, but concrete measures in this regard have not been taken yet.

Talking to media persons in Islamabad today, the defence minister said: “A decision has not been taken yet [on the ban], but a review is surely underway.”

He also stated that when the government takes a decision in this regard, the matter would be referred to the Parliament for approval.

Recalling the events of May 9, Asif claimed that the “violence” and vandalism of military installations were “coordinated attacks planned by Imran”.

“There is a lot of evidence and their people are telling themselves that they were briefed about this beforehand,” he said. “I feel that Imran’s struggle of a year … all his plans failed and this was his last resort against the country’s army.”

He claimed that Imran had started seeing the army as his “adversary” and called out the PTI chairman for his “hypocrisy”.

“His entire politics was done in the lap of the army and today he has suddenly decided to stand against it … and whatever I am saying is being said by all the people leaving PTI,” Asif said.

Responding to a question about the grounds for banning PTI, the minister asked, “Is there any crime that was not committed on May 9?”

“The ISI office was attacked, they tried to enter the Cantonment in Sialkot but that attack was repulsed … they also set fire to the Lahore Corps Commander’s house. The PTI challenges the foundation of the state by attacking defence installations.”

Asif went on to say that there was clarity amongst everyone that such actions “could only be done by India and not someone who is a Pakistani”, adding that the neighbouring country rejoiced at the events of May 9.

The minister further stated that the army’s reservations regarding the violence in the country on May 9 were “valid”.

He said that dealing with the current situation had resulted in a “new situation”. The coalition government will take every such step to prevent others from targeting the armed forces in the future, he vowed.

The minister said that May 25 will be celebrated and tribute would be paid to the country’s martyrs, clarifying that honouring martyrs was the norm in the world over.

“Till now, he (Imran) has not condemned [the violence] in clear words. He says that he did not know, he was [in custody]. He had his phone […] he repeatedly that this reaction was expected and will happen again if he is arrested,” Asif added.

Political party cannot be banned: Senator Ali Zafar

In a rebuttal to Asif, Senator Barrister Ali Zafar said that even if the PTI was banned, it was likely to be declared “null and void within a day” by the Supreme Court (SC) as a political party cannot be banned.

Talking to the media outside the Supreme Court, Zafar referred to the ban on the Jamaat-i-Islami in the 1960s that was set aside by then-chief justice of Pakistan Alvin Robert Cornelius.

“Efforts were made to put a ban on Jamaat-i-Islami long ago. […] The Supreme Court had said that you cannot ban a political party and it is everyone’s right to form a political party,” Zafar said.

“As far as vandalism is concerned, that is an individual act […] but a political party cannot be banned,” he asserted. “If such a step is taken, then I believe that this same court will declare it null and void within a day.”

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