Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Tuesday said PTI Chairman Imran Khan will be tried in a military court for the events of May 9 when violence erupted following his arrest and military installations came under attack.
At least eight people were killed, as many as 290 were injured, and over 1,900 enraged protesters were rounded up in running battles with law enforcers across the country on May 9 when an accountability court in Islamabad handed over the custody of Imran to NAB in connection with the Al Qadir Trust case.
The protesters had also stormed the residence of the corps commander in Lahore — also called Jinnah House — and tore down a gate of General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.
The riots had elicited a strong reaction from the government and military with vows of taking action against the culprits, leading to an ongoing crackdown against those involved.
In an appearance on Dawn News show Live with Adil Shahzeb, Sanaullah accused Imran of personally carrying out the planning of the attacks on military installations before his arrest on the day, adding that there was evidence to prove the claim as well.
When asked if Imran would be tried in the military court, Sanaullah said: “Absolutely, why shouldn’t he? The programme that he made to target the military installations and then had it executed, in my understanding absolutely is a case of a military court.”
The interior minister accused the PTI chief of personally orchestrating the May 9 riots. “They (PTI supporters) chanted a slogan that ‘Imran Khan is our red line’, and the planning and preparation were done on Imran Khan’s initiative and instigation.
“He carried it all out. He is the architect of all this discord,” adding that there was evidence present to back the accusation as well.
“[The evidence] is documented, it is in tweets and his messages,” he added.
When asked how Imran was able to communicate with his party leaders even from jail, the interior minister replied: “All this [planning] was decided before he went [to jail] that ‘who will do what and where. And when he is arrested, what would be the strategy and duties’. All of this was decided.”
The interior minister also ruled out talks with the PTI.
Sanaullah’s remarks come a day after Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said that there was no decision yet on Imran’s trial under the Army Act, adding, however, that he could not “rule out” such a possibility.
“I don’t rule out the possibility that he was the planner and knew everything [about May 9],” Asif had said.
Reacting to the interior minister, PTI Secretary General Omar Ayub said his recent “erratic actions and statements” had given rise to “serious questions on his cognitive abilities to carry on as a minister”.
“From holding midnight dubious press conferences to making statements about trying PTI Chairman Imran Khan in a military court, it just proves that he has finally become unhinged and is unfit to perform duties as a minister,” he tweeted.
Imran, aides coordinated efforts to storm military installations: Punjab Police
The Punjab Police had previously claimed, citing a geo-fencing report, that Imran and his close aides allegedly coordinated efforts to storm the residence of the Lahore corps commander and other buildings
Police had detected over 400 calls made by the PTI chairman and other senior leaders to allegedly incite party workers to move towards the military officer’s residence in Lahore Cantt, and other sensitive public buildings. It was observed that all the rioters were in contact with the PTI top leadership, based in Zaman Park.
Punjab Inspector General of Police Dr Usman Anwar, when contacted by Dawn, had confirmed the geo-fencing record and the alleged use of Imran’s residence for planning the attack on the corps commander’s residence.
A senior officer, requesting anonymity, had told Dawn that many important revelations had come from the analysis of the geo-fencing record: it was detected that 154 calls were allegedly made by Imran Khan to party leaders and rioters to provoke them to attack. He had said the PTI chairman was the “prime suspect” who allegedly planned the attack on the house of the corps commander.
The officer had said call records showed all phone calls were made on May 8 and May 9 — the day of Imran’s arrest — to prepare workers to attack the building. He said as many as a total of 225 callers were reportedly in contact with six PTI leaders; Hammad Azhar, Yasmin Rashid, Mahmoodur Rasheed, Ejaz Chaudhary, Aslam Iqbal, and Murad Ras. They were issuing “particular instructions to the rioters”, he had claimed, adding that Dr Yasmin Rashid received 41 calls from various activists of the party.
Transfer of suspects to military begins following govt’s blessing
Meanwhile, the government has okayed the use of military courts to try the suspects of the May 9 riots.
On Friday, Sanaullah said that 33 suspects, 19 in Punjab and 14 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, were handed over to the military.
“Out of the 499 FIRs, there are only six that are being processed — two in Punjab and four in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — which can possibly be tried in military courts. But an atmosphere is being created as if all are being tried in military courts,” the minister had said.
On Monday, a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court (ATC) also directed the superintendent of the garrison city’s Adiala Jail to hand over eight suspects to the military for trial.