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Army formation commanders announce end to restraint with marauding PTI mobs

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RAWALPINDI: The Pakistan Army, at a Formation Commanders’ Conference on Monday, resolved to try demonstrators and their abettors under laws including the Pakistan Army Act and the Official Secrets Act, after former cricketer and prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) mobs stormed military installations and residences on 9 May.

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir chaired the meeting at the military’s General Headquarters (GHQ). Ominously, The military’s top brass also resolved that the military was at the end of its tether and would no longer exercise restraint against perpetrators who attack military installations or residences.

Irate, prepared PTI demonstrators took to the streets and became violent soon after Imran Khan was arrested and sent to jail in the Al-Qadir Trust case. They attacked citizens, dragged patients out of ambulances and set the ambulances on fire, attacked, ransacked and burned military installations and residences (the burning and looting of the Lahore 4 Corps commander’s house was the most eye-opening), the GHQ, radio stations, police installations etc, but after walking free on bail, the PTI chief insisted his activists had nothing to do with the violence.

The PTI supremo however, vehemently denies that his consistently inflammatory tirade against the military had incited the rampage.

A statement from the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) read, “The forum expressed [a] firm resolve that those involved in these heinous crimes against the military installations and personal/equipment will be brought to justice through trials under relevant laws of Pakistan including Pakistan Army Act and Official Secrets Act.”

The ISPR statement said the commanders pondered “irrefutable evidence collected so far” of the “politically motivated rampage” that had caused “anguish among and hurt the sentiments of the rank and file of the Army and quoted them as saying that the armed forces “are well aware of the planners, instigators, abettors, and perpetrators of these attacks” and that attempts to obfuscate the facts and truth in this regard were “absolutely futile”.

The soldiers’ conference was briefed that a well-coordinated arson plan — involving the desecration of Shuhada pictures, monuments, burning down of historical buildings and vandalism of military installations — was “executed to malign the institution and provoke it to an impulsive reaction”.

The Army commanders at the conference also voiced “deep concern” at the “externally sponsored and internally facilitated” propaganda against the Army commanders, “orchestrated to create fissures both between the armed forces and the people as well as within the army’s ranks,” which they said would be snuffed out with the support of the people who have always stood with the armed forces.

PTI Chairman Khan denies: In his first address after his release, Imran Khan once again called for an “independent inquiry” into the PTI mob violence and put the blame on “those who were fleeing from elections wanted to create unrest and chaos in the country, not his party.”

Imran Khan said he was against violence and vandalism, adding that his party always remained peaceful despite all kinds of provocations. The deposed prime minister slammed the “establishment” for “attacking” him as if he were “the biggest terrorist in Pakistan”.

Pakistani Information Minister: In an interview with Al Jazeera, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said the army had walked away from politics, hence COAS Gen Asim had no reason to humour Imran Khan with dialogue and therefore interfere in the democratic process.

She said that when the current Army chief was the chief of the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) Imran Khan was the prime minister and the chief had informed Imran Khan that one of his cabinet ministers and wife were involved in corruption and brought forth evidence to that effect, but “Instead of taking action against the corrupt [officials], Imran removed Gen Asim Munir from the post of DG ISI.”

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