No compromise or deal with planners and architects, says army chief on May 9 anniversary

Published May 9, 2024
Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir visits the Lahore Garrison on Thursday. — ISPR
Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir visits the Lahore Garrison on Thursday. — ISPR

As the state observed the anniversary of the May 9 riots on Thursday, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir ruled out any “compromise or deal with the planners and architects of this dark chapter in our history”.

Political leaders also held press conferences throughout the day and issued statements to strongly condemn the violent events while assailing the PTI for them.

Former premier Imran Khan’s arrest on May 9 last year in the £190m graft case had resulted in widespread violence and saw important military installations come under attack, on the basis of which the state had launched a severe crackdown against his party.

While Imran was released a few days later (he has since been rearrested in a separate case), thousands of PTI workers and almost the entire top-tier leadership were rounded up, with many still facing court proceedings under serious charges.

According to a statement from the Inter Services Public Relations issued today, COAS Munir said that May 9 would “undoubtedly remain a black day in the history of Pakistan when deliberately indoctrinated and insidiously guided miscreants attacked the symbols of the state and national unity, disgracefully desecrating the martyrs’ monuments”.

He said there could be “no compromise or deal with the planners and architects of this dark chapter in our history”, explaining that the reason for this was the mindset of the incident’s schemers who were now “brazenly and shamelessly trying to twist the narrative and implicate the state in this despicable endeavour”.

Gen Munir said that the country’s enemies were given the chance to mock the state and its people due to the “deplorable acts of criminally orchestrated violence” on the day.

“Those gullible elements who did not understand the real motive behind this criminal enterprise and were used as cannon fodder for the political ambitions of the masterminds have already been accorded reasonable benefit of doubt on the direction of Supreme Court of Pakistan.

“However, the real leaders who present themselves as victims now will be held accountable for their actions, particularly when there is irrefutable evidence of their involvement and complicity in organised violence and sabotage,” he was quoted as saying in the statement.

It added that the army chief reassured officers and soldiers that no one would be allowed to disrespect martyrs, their families or the military.

“Planners, abettors, facilitators and culprits of May 9 will be brought to justice according to the law of the land and our patience not to respond to daily provocations in this regard made in brazen violation of the constitution has limits and it must never be misconstrued as weakness,” he said.

COAS Munir lauded troops for their “services to nation and appreciated their professionalism”, underscoring that inimical forces and their abettors had “unleashed digital terrorism and are trying hard to create division between armed forces and people of Pakistan through peddling lies, fake news and propaganda”.

He added that “the designs of all these forces will be defeated with the support of the nation.”

The army chief asserted that every military soldier and officer put his duties and responsibilities first, regardless of any other affiliations or preferences and continued to render “extreme sacrifices” on a daily basis.

Later, he inaugurated the Jinnah Library at Lahore Garrison, saying: “We being the constructive forces have rekindled the memory of Quaid by building this public library over the piles of ash and rubble created by the destructive forces.”

The army chief’s remarks come a day after Imran refused to apologise for the May 9 riots. He was speaking to the media after the court proceedings in the £190 million corruption case at Adiala jail. When asked whether he would apologise for the May 9 violent protest, Imran had replied in the negative, saying he was under detention at the time and was unaware of those protests.

The ex-premier had mentioned that he became aware of the protests when he appeared before then-chief justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial.

“I had already condemned those violent protests,” he added. Imran had further said that if the establishment was not interested in dialogue, the PTI would not pursue it either.

According to the former premier, he wanted dialogue for the sake of Pakistan, not to strike a deal for personal favours.

Riots aimed at ending democracy: PM Shehbaz

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that the violent riots were aimed at ending democracy in Pakistan and establishing an “individual’s dictatorship”.

Addressing a special meeting of the federal cabinet at Parliament House, the premier said: “The real aim of May 9 [incidents] was to end democracy in Pakistan and god forbid, bury the Constitution, and a nefarious goal of establishing kingship and dictatorship of an individual.”

“The impure plan of May 9 was not just a rebellion against Pakistan but against the state, the Pakistan Army and army chief Gen Asim Munir,” he said.

PM Shehbaz said the aim of convening the meeting at Parliament House was to send a message to the nation that “not only will we remember our martyrs and their families till the day of judgment but also to give a message of unity with them”.

“I think that these anti-state elements are displaying the worst enmity in the guise of a friend and a sympathiser,” the prime minister asserted.

He recalled various steps taken by the then-coalition government to save the country from economic default and improve relations with brotherly countries. The premier linked the May 9 attacks to the various corruption cases against Imran and his party.

The premier highlighted that politicians in Pakistan’s history had gone through “strict tribulations” and suffered in jail yet raised the slogan of “Pakistan khappay” and said they “could not even think of saying a word against Pakistan”.

PM Shehbaz said the riots were “not only a planned conspiracy […] but a rebellion against the institutions and Pakistan to divide the country’s public and make them fight [among themselves]”.

The prime minister stated that the attacks were aimed at “breaking apart unity in Pakistan and ending the public’s emotions of affection for the army and spreading civil war through rebellion”, adding the plan for it failed.

Noting that despite a year passing, the suspects involved could not yet be brought to justice and be punished, PM Shehbaz said it was a “stinging question that the entire nation asks itself, us and the institutions, who have been given this responsibility”.

Earlier today, Information Minister Attaullah Tarar had said that a resolution regarding the May 9 violence would be passed in the federal cabinet’s special meeting while the law ministry would also present a “white paper”.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, Tarar said that the PPP, the Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP) and the National Party (NP) had been invited to the meeting as special invitees to represent the coalition partners.

Paramount to bring culprits to justice: ISPR

Meanwhile, the military’s media affairs wing emphasised that bringing the “real culprits of May 9 [riots] to justice” was paramount to ensure no future desecration of the memories of the country’s heroes.

“Bringing the real culprits of May 9 to justice is paramount to ensure that in future, no one dares to desecrate the memories of our heroes and the symbols of our unity through such an unwarranted conduct in future,” the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.

The armed forces, along with the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) and services’ chiefs, strongly condemned the “criminal acts” perpetrated on May 9 last year, terming the day as a “Black Day”.

Recalling the incident, it said “politically motivated and brainwashed miscreants, in an act of rebellion, deliberately resorted to violence against state institutions and vandalised sacred symbols of the state and the sites belonging to national heritage”.

“It was a futile attempt to bring about a misplaced and shortsighted revolution in the country,” the ISPR stated.

“By displaying utmost restraint during this deliberate and brazenly orchestrated violence, Pakistan Armed Forces thwarted the insidious conspiracy by the planners, facilitators and executors who wanted to destabilise Pakistan by inciting confrontation between the people and the armed forces,” the statement added.

It further said that upon “failing to undermine national harmony and stability”, those involved then “embarked upon a sinister campaign of hate against the armed forces and the state with an intent to twist the narrative to their advantage and shift the blame on the state institutions”.

“It is precisely for this reason there can neither be any compromise with the planners, facilitators and executors of May 9 tragedy nor they would be allowed to hoodwink the law of land,” the military asserted.

It renewed the resolve to “defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan and defeat nefarious designs of the enemies of Pakistan, both external and internal”.

Recognising the martyrs and their families as the pride of Pakistan, the armed forces pledged to “uphold their dignity and respect at all costs”.

“Today, let’s join hands to strongly denounce the conspiracies to weaken Pakistan and work together for the prosperity and stability of our beloved country,” the ISPR said.

PM says ‘no soft-pedalling’ of May 9 riots

Earlier today, PM Shehbaz said there “can absolutely be no soft-pedalling” of the May 9 riots.

“There can absolutely be no soft-pedalling of what happened on May 9 and there can be no absolution for those who orchestrated, supported, and assisted the attempt to damage the foundations of our nation,” he said in a post on X.

The premier said that “not only were symbols of our national pride and honour attacked but the sanctity of our sacred homeland was also assaulted” on that day.

“Let not the shadows of lies, hide the light of truth,” the prime minister stated.

“Love of our country demands nothing less,” PM Shehbaz added while using the hashtag “May 9 Never Again”.

In another post last night, the premier had said the day “separated two thoughts of politics — those who sacrificed politics for the state and those who attacked the state for politics”.

“On the one hand, there are the great sons of the nation who shed their blood for their homeland, their great families, and the patriotic public. On the other, there are those characters burning in the fire of hatred, who neither have any pain in their heart for state interests nor have any respect or nobility for national monuments, state institutions, the Constitution or the law,” he added.

PM Shehbaz further said that a year had passed since the events but “Pakistan and the nation have neither forgotten nor will forget their criminals”.

“It is [my] pledge to the holy land, the great martyrs, their families and the nation that May 9 never again,” the prime minister vowed.

He expressed his resolve to move towards development to give a bright future to future generations.

Balochistan Assembly passes resolution

Meanwhile, the Balochistan Assembly adopted a resolution condemning the May 9 riots and urging the federal government to urgently take “strict disciplinary action” against those involved in them “directly or indirectly”.

The resolution, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, was moved by provincial minister Mir Sadiq Umrani. It was also signed by PML-N’s Shoaib Nosherwani and Asim Kurd; PPP’s Bakht Muhammad Kakar, Zahoor Buledi and Ali Madat Jattak; and the Balochistan Awami Party’s Mir Ziaullah Langove.

Listing the attacks on “state and private installations” and personnel of law enforcement agencies being injured, the resolution strongly condemned the violent acts.

It stressed that bringing the perpetrators to justice was necessary to ensure that “every kind of conspiracy” against the Pakistan Army could be thwarted.

CMs, ministers, others offer condemnations

The chief ministers of all provinces except the PTI-ruled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa condemned the May 9 riots.

Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz said the nation would “neither forget nor forgive” the attacks, emphasising that bringing the plotters to justice was necessary, Radio Pakistan reported.

She said those who violated the dignity of the country and the nation for politics could not be forgiven, and vowed to never let incidents like May 9 take place again.

Addressing a press conference later in front of Jinnah House, she said the riots on May 9 were “unprecedented” and called the PTI a “terrorist group” for the alleged role of its workers in the incidents.

She accused the party of planning the riots for four months and providing training to attack military installations on May 9.

“Even terrorists have been unable to achieve what this party achieved on May 9,” she said

CM Maryam addressed those asking why PTI workers were in jails, saying that “for attacking Pakistan’s core values and destroying Jinnah’s belongings they have been awarded the strictest of punishments”.

“Who am I to release these people if they’ve committed such grave crimes?” she asked.

Maryam added that the PTI “will remain terrorists” and that the state “does not negotiate with terrorists”. “You will reap what you have sown and you will be punished,” she said.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah criticised Imran for spreading “venom and hatred” and for “corrupting the minds of our youth”, who he said “fell victim to the selfishness of one man”.

Addressing an event in Karachi, CM Shah stressed that situations of unrest such as May 9 were where “true leadership is put on display”.

Balochistan Chief Minister Sarfraz Bugti, in a post on X, referred to the assassination of ex-PM Benazir Bhutto, stating that the PPP did not create a situation like May 9 last year.

Speaking in the Balochistan Assembly, he highlighted that the military had held its officers accountable and hailed the legislature’s unity on the matter.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari condemned the May 9 incidents as “yet another dark chapter in the nation’s history”.

In a statement issued last night, the PPP MNA termed the riots a “malevolent scheme aimed at sowing chaos and enforcing fascism in the country”, asserting that justice must prevail for the perpetrators who attacked military installations.

He said the “instigator behind the strongly condemnable events of May 9 is well-known to everyone”.

The coalition government ally, however, said his party supported the PTI’s demand for a judicial inquiry into the incident, which should be overseen by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa. Bilawal emphasised that for the probe to occur, “all parties, including the PTI, must commit to accepting whatever decision the judicial commission arrives at”.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif condemned the riots, deeming them an effort to “compromise” the sovereignty of the state.

 Khawaja Asif and Attaullah Tarar speak to media in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV
Khawaja Asif and Attaullah Tarar speak to media in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV

Addressing a joint press conference with Information Minister Attaullah Tarar in Islamabad, he said, “You have to dig back to 2013-14 to see how deep the conspiracy goes.”

“One of the sponsors of May 9 (Imran Khan) is sitting in prison, while the rest of these rogue elements have been conspiring since 2013,” Asif alleged.

Stating that while the PTI has since “apologised”, the defence minister maintained that “those whose hands are dirty should be ashamed to demand justice”.

Speaking to reporters earlier, Tarar had said: “For the sake of political and personal interests, a move was made on May 9 [last year], which was never done even by the enemies.”

He said that in his opinion, “a lot of concessions” had been given despite Imran’s nephews and all three sisters being allegedly involved in the riots.

Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Hafiz Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi said the state was more important than politics and politics can be sacrificed but not the state, Radio Pakistan reported.

Addressing a press conference in Lahore, he said a commission should be formed to investigate who was “conspiring to divide the army and the people in this country”.

“I want to clarify that if someone is innocent, they should not be in jail for even a minute. No injustice should be done with any innocent but what issue does my honourable judiciary have with punishing the sinful?” he said.

Awami National Party (ANP) President Aimal Wali Khan, in an apparent reference to PTI’s Ali Amin Gandapur, alleged that a “main suspect” was the KP chief minister currently.

In an interview with Geo News on Wednesday, Aimal said, “Make it an example. It is not that I am a favourite of that institution but there is a system in Pakistan and everyone should function under the Constitution.”

Ceremonies, events held

 A delegation of religious scholars and minority community visits Lahore’s Jinnah House on May 9. — Radio Pakistan
A delegation of religious scholars and minority community visits Lahore’s Jinnah House on May 9. — Radio Pakistan

The information ministry organised a special function — to be addressed by the premier — at the Jinnah Convention Centre in which people from all walks of life were asked to “pay befitting homage to our glorious martyrs and their families”.

Separately, a special prayer ceremony was held this morning at the Radio Pakistan building in Peshawar, which was set on fire during the May 9 vandalism.

The students of Army Public School, people from various walks of life and staff of the broadcasting house there attended the ceremony, Radio Pakistan reported.

In Lahore, a delegation of religious scholars from all schools of thought and the minority community visited Jinnah House. They said those who wanted to blaze the house of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah “did not deserve any concession or pardon”, Radio Pakistan reported.

Another programme regarding the May 9 events was scheduled to take place at the Pak-China Friendship Centre in Islamabad, Radio Pakistan said.

On Wednesday, a delegation of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the Punjab Union of Journalists had visited Jinnah House and condemned the desecration of martyrs’ memorials, Radio Pakistan reported.

They expressed anger over the burning and siege of Jinnah House, adding that there was “no place for such political extremists in Pakistan”, it added.

A group of Peoples Democratic Alliance and Lawyers also paid a visit to Jinnah House, regretting that despite the passage of one year, the perpetrators of May 9 have not been brought to justice, the report said.

Govt dedicates May 9 anniversary to martyrs

As it aims to mark the first anniversary of the May 9 violence that largely targeted military installations and monuments of martyrs, the government has decided to commemorate the day in solidarity with martyrs and their families.

In the lead-up to the May 9 anniversary, electronic media continue to broadcast advertisements recalling violent protests, mobs clashing with the police, attacking and entering the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and vandalising the Lahore corps commander’s residence.

PM Shehbaz and President Asif Ali Zardari said May 9 will “always be remembered as a dark day in country’s history”, state-run Radio Pakistan reported.

The president and the premier recalled that on May 9 last year, “a politically instigated mob ran amok across the country, damaging public property and military installations”.

In his statement issued last night, President Zardari condemned the violence and said that the “unfortunate incidents severely tarnished the country’s image, which only served the interest of Pakistan’s enemies”.

Terming the incident as an “attempt to challenge the writ of the state, undermine the rule of law and weaken the institutions”, the president expressed pride in Pakistan’s armed forces and institutions.

He emphasised that those responsible for the May 9 violence should be held accountable according to law. President Zardari affirmed that any attempt to misuse the right to peaceful demonstrations to incite violence would never be tolerated.

However, he stressed that the “current political situation demands that all political parties work towards promoting tolerance, democratic values, and political dialogue, and provide a clear direction to the nation”.

On the other hand, the PTI, which has been at the receiving end of a crackdown after the riots, has planned to organise gatherings across the country to express solidarity with its incarcerated leader ex-PM Imran Khan. In order to counter the PTI’s protests, authorities in Islamabad and Punjab have already imposed Section 144.

According to the PTI, over 10,000 of its workers were arrested, but the government claimed it arrested only a few thousand people. The PTI not only challenged the military court cases in the Supreme Court but also alleged that the riots were a false-flag operation designed and carried out by the establishment to dismantle the former ruling party.

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