Imran Khan likely to be tried in military court, says Pakistan’s defence minister

Islamabad: Pakistan’s 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, according to a media report on Sunday.

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.

There was evidence to prove the claim as well, the minister added.

When asked if Khan would be tried in the military court, he said: “Absolutely, why shouldn’t it? The programme that he made to target the military installations and then had it executed, in my understanding it absolutely is a case of a military court.”

The minister accused Khan of personally orchestrating the May 9 riots.

“His 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,” he said.

“(The evidence) is documented, it is in tweets and his messages,” he added.

When asked how Khan was able to communicate with his party leaders even from jail, the 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 minister’s remarks come a day after Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said that there was no decision yet on Khan’s trial under the stringent Army Act. He, however, said 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 said.

Khan has denied his involvement in the violence, saying he was in the jail when the mayhem took place. He has 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.

On Friday, Sanaullah said that 33 suspects, 19 in Punjab and 14 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, were handed over to the military.

On Monday, an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi directed the superintendent of the Adiala Jail to hand over eight suspects to the military for trial.