Amid political turbulence in Pakistan, its Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has said the chances were that former prime minister Imran Khan could be tried in a military court for his alleged involvement in the May 9 incidents in which military and state installations were attacked by his party workers. Khan, 70, could stand trial in a military court if evidence of his involvement in the May 9 violence surfaced in the coming days, Asif was quoted as saying by The Express Tribune newspaper.
He also confirmed that no case had been registered against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief so far in connection with the May 9 attacks. “Definitely…there are chances that Imran Khan can be tried in a military court,” the minister said while responding to a question if the deposed premier could be prosecuted under the Army Act.
What happened on May 9?
His remarks came days after Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that Khan will be tried in a military court as the former prime minister was the "architect" of the May 9 incidents. Khan’s party found itself in hot waters when protesters allegedly belonging to the party attacked civil and military properties on May 9 following the arrest of Khan in the Al-Qadir corruption case.
The trial of people involved in the attacks on military installations in different parts of the country, including the attack on General Headquarters in Rawalpindi as well as Lahore’s Jinnah House where the Corps Commander was residing, has already begun.
Earlier, Asif was reported as saying that no decision had been made in connection with trying the cricketer-turned-politician under the Army Act but he had not ruled out that possibility on the grounds that Khan was the mastermind behind the May 9 violence and knew everything about what was happening on that day.
Both the defence and interior ministers' statements hinting at Khan’s trial in a military court stem from the federal cabinet’s decision that the protesters who vandalised military installations on May 9 would be tried under the Army Act and Official Secrets Act.
No new military courts would be established
The government ministers have repeatedly said that no new military courts would be established and the suspects would be tried in the “special standing courts” that were already functioning under the Army Act.
Army Chief General Asim Munir also said perpetrators, planners and executors of the May 9 attacks would be tried under the Army Act and Official Secret Act, adding that no leniency would be shown to those who attacked the military installations.
Khan denied his involvement in the violence, saying he was in jail when the incidents took place. He has said that the establishment plans to keep him in jail for 10 years in a sedition case. On May 9, violent protests erupted after the arrest of Khan by paramilitary Rangers in Islamabad. His party workers vandalised over 20 military installations and government buildings, including the Lahore Corps Commander House, Mianwali airbase and the ISI building in Faisalabad.
The Army headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi was also attacked by the mob for the first time. Khan was later released on bail. The violence 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. Law enforcement agencies have arrested over 10,000 workers of Khan's Pakistan party across Pakistan, 4,000 of them from Punjab.
Police put the death toll in violent clashes to 10 while Khan's party claims 40 of its workers lost their lives in the firing by security personnel. The Punjab Police had previously claimed, citing a geo-fencing report, that Khan and his close aides allegedly coordinated efforts to storm the residence of the Lahore Corps Commander and other buildings.