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Pakistan Reader# 607, 5 June 2023

PTI: To ban or not to ban?



Pakistan’s Political Crisis: PR Daily Updates| Day 25

Varsha K

On 9 May, Imran Khan was arrested by the rangers outside Islamabad High Court, over corruption charges against the Al Qadir trust case . Following the arrest, a violent protests ensued which led to the attack on military installations, including Jinnah House, Mianwal Airbase, Rawalpindi Army headquarters and the ISI building in Faisalabad. The coalition government and the military expressed their disdain for the violence and demanded probe against the accused either by banning the party or by the removal of their Chairman, Imran Khan.
 
Insisting for the ban on the PTI or removal of Imran Khan as Chairman
First, demands to ban PTI. Federal coalition has been continuously accusing Imran Khan, since his arrest and the attack on state establishment. There have been subsequent talks on banning PTI by PDM. Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said banning the PTI was the only solution and blamed Imran Khan for organising and training criminals, which broke as protests immediately after his arrest. Rana criticised the judiciary for providing “extraordinary relief” to the PTI chief, which alleges indirectly that the Judiciary supports Imran Khan and his party. Recently, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) spokesperson Aslam Ghauri called PTI a “terrorist organisation” due to its involvement in the 9 May violence and insisted the ban on the party. Also, he called Imran Khan a “threat to national integrity.”

Second, the military on the PTI ban. In a press meeting on 24 May, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said that the government is considering the ban on PTI due to its involvement in attacks on army installations. He iterated: “The PTI has attacked the very basis of the state, that never happened before. It can't be tolerated.” Additionally, Asif condemned Imran’s statement of “blaming the army for his arrest” and claimed that the army had no role in his arrest. Asif’s statement unfolds the current government’s support for Pakistan’s army. 
 
Third, civilian trial through military court. The people of Pakistan and other international organisations condemned the demand for trying accused civilians under the military court. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) stated: “HRCP also objects to the arbitrary manner in which certain cases are selected to be tried by military courts, thereby violating the principle of equality before the law and equal protection of the law.” Considering democratic values and principles, HRCP also opposed the idea of banning a political party and stated: “While all political parties must adhere to democratic, peaceful and bona fide means to further their political agendas, HRCP sees no benefit to Pakistan’s polity in banning a political party. We consider any step by the government to ban the PTI both reckless and disproportionate.” Additionally, Patricia Gossman, Associate Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said: “Pakistan’s military courts, which use secret procedures that deny due process rights, should not be used to prosecute civilians, even for crimes against the military.” 
 
However, in the first place, PPP disagreed with the idea of banning a political party. He affirmed that he was the “last person” in favour of banning a party. He stressed that he did not see any reason for banning the PTI if they decided to “remain a political party and disowned those involved in terrorism.” Meanwhile, on 25 May, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari assured that his party would not oppose the banning of PTI as they have “crossed the red line” and iterated that he will support it if it is under the purview of law and constitution. Therefore, there is a divide in PPP among the members who either want to ban PTI or remove Imran Khan.
 
Imran Khan lamented that the continuing exodus has been part of ‘political engineering’ where the leaders are being “forced” to quit the party. Furthermore, banning PTI creates a vacuum in leadership and provides an opportunity for the ruling coalition to secure a larger share in the voter bank. Despite the decision of banning the PTI or removing Imran Khan, the party is already disintegrating. The departure of prominent party leaders such as Shireen Mazari, Fawad Chaudhry, Asad Umar and many other leaders in different provinces affected the political leadership of PTI. Though Imran Khan underplays the party defection crisis, it will be rather difficult for the party to retain the support and glory that it once has garnered. 


Day 25
Pakistan’s Political Crisis: PR Daily Updates
Femy Francis

This is a new section looking at the ongoing political crisis in Pakistan, starting with the arrest of Imran Khan, subsequent violence on 9 May by PTI cadres targeting the Establishment, relief to Imran by the judiciary, response by the government and the Establishment, and the exodus within the PTI. This section provides a daily brief on the political crisis.

On 4 May, PTI sympathizers and supporters in the United States urged Joe Biden to impose visa bans on Pakistani officials. Atif Khan, PTI chief adviser for overseas Pakistanis, demanded a visa ban on individuals involved in human rights violations. While anti- PTI groups have stated that the supporters are spreading propaganda campaigns.
 
As PTI leaders defect from the party, there have been internal structural changes in the party leadership where new appointments are filling up the ranks. Sayed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari was appointed as the new advisor for the PTI party by Imran Khan. Additionally, the defectors are joining other parties or are creating a new separate group, one such is “Democrats,”  formed by Hashim Dogar and Murad Raas. Raas said: “One thing is clear that the Democrats will continue acting as an opposition to the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).”
 
Government
On 04 June, Dr Yasmin Rashid was relieved  by the anti- terrorism court on charges of 9 May violence. Punjab police chief Dr Usman Anwar accused her of being a key player in the attacks and challenged the ATC verdict. The Central Police Office unanimously agreed that the attack on state installation was: “Well planned by the PTI leaders' ' Accusations were made that she openly admitted to planning to attack the Jinnah house. Usman said: “We are confident enough to prove in a court of law that these PTI leaders were not innocent and that the attacks were not carried out all of a sudden in reaction to the arrest of the PTI chairman.”  The officer claimed that out of 215 calls made to integrate violence 41 were made by Dr Yasmin Rashid.

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