Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Thursday asked Imran Khans party to “not make matters worse” and end its violent protest against his arrest as he asserted that he was not in favour of banning the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ((PTI) despite the party attacking sensitive state installations.
Addressing a press conference here, Bilawal, also the Chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), said the PTI’s reaction to Khan’s arrest in a corruption case was “completely unjustified”.
He advised the PTI leadership to not “make matters worse call for an end to violent protests,” the Dawn newspaper reported.
Khan, 70, was arrested on Tuesday on the orders of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) by paramilitary Rangers, who barged into a room of the Islamabad High Court where the PTI chief was present for biometrics before the hearing of a corruption case.
His dramatic arrest sparked widespread violent protests across Pakistan, leaving at least eight people dead and nearly 300 others injured in clashes between protesters and law enforcement agencies.
“It (the protest) is violent and has created a situation in which serious conversations need to be had,” Bilawal said, adding that “those involved will be held accountable”.
He called on the PTI supporters to “declare that you will abide by the rule of law and Constitution”, and asked them to accept that they will engage with the NAB as citizens and not terrorists.
“What has happened, has happened. Don’t make things more difficult for yourself,” he was quoted as saying by The Express Tribune newspaper.
Army was deployed in the country’s capital as well as in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces to maintain law and order after Khan’s supporters stormed the General Headquarters of the Army in Rawalpindi and set the residence of the Lahore Corps Commander on fire while attacking military vehicles and installations.
“I think the events show the extreme restraint was shown not only by the Pakistani state but also the Pakistan Army,” Bilawal said, stressing that if a general’s house would be invaded or the headquarters of the armed forces attacked in any other country they would be met with “straight fire immediately”.
He said that there were only two examples of the Pakistan Army General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi coming under attack — once by the banned terror outfit Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and then by Khan’s supporters.
Bilawal stressed that he was “principally opposed to the banning of any political party”, but added that “such decisions are made in view of the circumstances”.
“If such a decision is taken, it would be taken because there would be no other choice left,” he said, adding that he would be the “last person” to endorse such a move.
Chiding Khan’s party, the foreign minister said that as a political party, it would have limited its reaction to just politics. “But the PTI had already decided that their reaction would not be political and they would become a militant organisation, that they would pick up stones and guns and attack the state,” he said.
“Any organisation would have had to face the music after the terrorist activities carried out yesterday,” he added.
In an address to the nation on Wednesday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said strict action would be taken against “state’s enemies” as he slammed Khan’s party for violence that gripped the country after his arrest.
“The miscreants will be dealt with iron hands. They will be punished according to the law,” the prime minister said, and urged Khan’s supporters to immediately stop their “anti-state activities”.
Khan was on Wednesday sent on an eight-day remand to the anti-corruption watchdog, while a sessions court indicted him in a separate graft case amid violent protests.
Separately, the District and Sessions Court indicted Khan in the Toshakhana case.
The Toshakhana case was filed last year by the Election Commission of Pakistan, and Khan had skipped several hearings in the past months. The charges are about the allegation that Khan concealed the proceeds of sale from the state gifts.
Khan was present in the court and pleaded not guilty when the charges were read. He also refused to sign the court documents, according to Geo News channel.
The PTI chief was ousted from power in April after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China and Afghanistan.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)