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Photo Source: The Express Tribune

Pakistan Reader# 605, 2 June 2023

Imran Khan's Arrest, 09 May Violence, Military Courts and Global Responses: A Brief Profile



Pakistan’s Political Crisis: PR Daily Updates: Day 23

Subiksha S

On 9 May, Imran Khan was arrested by paramilitary troops at Islamabad High Court's premises, followed by a country-wide protest and riots across Pakistan. The protest turned violent when PTI activists attacked the military installation by vandalizing the Jinnah house. The coalition government widely criticised the audacious step against the military, demanding a military court trial of the accused. Defense Minister Khawaja Asif saw it as an "act of rebellion against the state". Shehbaz Sharif announced that those who had damaged public property and infrastructure would tried by the anti-terrorism courts. Shehbaz Sharif, in a meeting with the National Security Committee, said:" Whatever happened on 9 May in this country, it will be remembered as the darkest chapter in this country's history," he added. He said about the attack on the Corps Commander House, "Jinnah House is not just a building … It housed the sons that protected Pakistan. But they destroyed it - in fact, reduced it to ashes."
 
Ruling coalition party members alleged the Chief Justice of Pakistan for favoring Imran Khan and PTI. PML-N chief organizer Maryam Nawaz Sharif accused the Supreme Court of imposing a "judicial martial law" in Pakistan. PPP Senior Vice President and Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman supporting Shehbaz Sharif, said: "The PPP strongly condemns the desecration of the martyrs' memorial in Sargodha, burning of the Jinnah House in Lahore, vandalism at the FC Fort in Dir and the statue of Shaheed Karnal Sher Khan, torching of the Swat Motorway Toll Plaza, arson at the Rawalpindi Metro Station and the Peshawar Radio Station, destruction of the Chagai Model and Edhi ambulance in Peshawar, and burning of passenger buses in Karachi."  
 
On 22 May, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Pakistan demanding the government to overturn its decision to try civilians involved in the 9 May violence under military courts. The PTI argued that this decision by the government was a "clear violation" of the constitutional guarantees of due process and fair trial. Local and international rights organizations, including those from the ruling coalition, strongly opposed the proposal to try 9 May suspects in military courts, stating that it was against democratic values. 
 
Amnesty International has urged that the contentious action be overturned, calling it worrisome and against international law. The Pakistani Human Rights Commission (HRCP) strongly opposed prosecuting civilians in military courts. According to many within and outside Pakistan, using military courts in this context compromises due process rights and undermines Pakistan's credibility as a champion of human rights. 
 
Pakistan ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment 2010. On the other hand, Army Act had its amendment whereby civilians accused of inciting mutiny within the rank and file through written and verbal material could be tried in Military Courts. According to the Human Rights Committee, the international expert group tasked with ensuring ICCPR compliance, the "trial of civilians in military or special courts may raise serious problems as far as the equitable, impartial and independent administration of justice is concerned." Unless there is a direct armed conflict between the civilians and the army, civilians cannot be tried in Military Court.
  
References
Sikander Ahmed Shah, "Military courts," Dawn, 1 June 2023
Moeed Pirzada, "Military Courts in Pakistan: Why and Why not?," Global Village Space, 5 November 2012
"Army played no role in Imran's arrest: Khawaja Asif," The Express Tribune, 30 May 2023
"Civilian Supremacy' Greatest Casualty' In Prevailing Political Crisis: HRCP," The Friday Times, 31 May 2023
"Pakistan: Don't Try Civilians in Military Courts," Human Rights Watch, 31 May 2023
Syed Irfan Raza, "NSC validates trial of rioters under Army Act," Dawn, 17 May 2023
"No 'new' military courts to try 9 May suspects: Asif," The Express Tribune, 21 May 2023


Day 23
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.

Pervez Khattak and two more leaders quit PTI
Pervez Khattak announced his resignation in light of the violent attack on the military installation. He said: "Inothing good happened on May 9… I have condemned the incident before, may Allah prevent such an incident from happening again." Khattak was PTI's provincial president for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region and held office as the KP CM during his tenure from 2013-2018. 
Mohammad Didar Khan and Mufti Abdul Ghaffar Shah, former MPA, quit PTI and announced their plans shortly. Didar said: "We both have decided to quit the PTI and would contest the upcoming general elections as independent candidates." Syed Rafaqat Gilani, former Punjab MPA, also quit the party, stating that he condemns the violence orchestrated on 9 May. Shah expressed that following the 9 May violence, he refused to affiliate himself with the party and plans to work as an independent candidate uplifting the Kohistan community. 
 
Lahore High Court on the release of 9 May violence detainees
LHC ordered the release of all detainees for allegedly attacking the military installation and promulgating the 9 May violence. The court ordered the probe as null and void where the accused of 11 districts detained under Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) were to be released. The judgment issued: "The unpleasant and surprise events of 9 May under the shadow of unbridled mob have defaced the peaceful and democratic image of the country and it was the responsibility of the government to arrange for law and order, but not in a way as resorted on the fateful."  
 
Multan Police hands over suspects to the military
On 30 May, Multan police handed over five suspects to the commanding officers in charge for the 9 May violence of allegedly attacking a military installation. The accused are Khurram Liaquat, Khurram Shahzad, Zahid Khan, Ishaq Bhutta and Hamid Ali. Additionally, Islamabad police refuted Sheikh Rashid Ahmed's claims of illegal raid and torture of his employees. The Police stated: "The Islamabad Police conducted the raid after obtaining the warrant under case number 376/23 from Kohsar police station. The police did not torture any employee."
 
Pervez Elahi arrested
On 1 May, PTI Parvez Elahi was arrested after several botched attempts. His vehicle was intercepted by the police near his Lahore residence amid high security and a scuffle. Adding to the ensuing chaos and defection within PTI.
 
Other Developments
On 31 May, Mian Javed Latif, PML-N leader claimed that state institutions have evidence of foreign involvement in the 9 May violence. Furthermore, alleged that PTI had been training its supporters to attack military and state installations. 
 
On 31 May, Michelle Steel, a US Representative, expressed her concerns over Pakistan's government's Human Rights abuses and oppression. She also urged US Secretary Antony Blinken to support and "take appropriate diplomatic steps to preserve democracy in Pakistan".
 
Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) issued a statement stressing that PTI should be banned as they are a "terrorist Organisation" and not a political party. They believe that Imran Khan is "a threat to national integrity" and is now dependent on international American support. 

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