Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Friday said that 33 suspects—19 from Punjab and 14 from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa—allegedly involved in the May 9 riots are being probed by military courts to determine whether the Army Act or the Official Secrets Act apply on them.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, he explained that military trials would only proceed if it were determined that the relevant laws had been violated. He said 499 FIRs had been registered against various Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporters and leaders over the ransacking and vandalism of military and civilian installations, including various monuments to martyrs and the Lahore Corps Commanders’ house. These individuals, he alleged, had all been active participants in the riots that broke out after PTI chief Imran Khan’s arrest in the Al-Qadir Trust corruption case earlier this month.
Explaining that he wanted to offer some clarity to address a growing impression that a majority of the cases would be tried in military courts, he said it was being determined whether the Army Act or the Official Secrets Act applied to the suspects being investigated by the military. Of the 499 FIRs, he said, thus far only six—two in Punjab and four in KP—were being processed for potential military trials. “It is being said that everything is being taken to military courts. This is not true. Only 19 accused have been transferred to military courts in Punjab and 14 in KP. Nowhere else are these measures being taken,” he said.
According to Sanaullah, 5,536 people—1,100 in KP and 3,944 in Punjab and the rest in other parts of the country—were arrested in connection with the riots. Of these, he said, approximately 80 percent were already out on bail. Of the total arrests, he said, 3,944 were conducted under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), while 88 cases had been registered under it.
Stressing that no innocents would be prosecuted, he maintained that the law would take its course against those who had planned, instigated or perpetuated the riots. He said that per law, the Official Secrets Act and the Army Act were applicable on any person—even a soldier who did not have proper clearance—that trespassed on a building, or a part of it, that was related to the country’s defense. “It is a punishable offense to enter, stay around, or allow people to enter such a building. Protests and videos cannot be made near sensitive buildings,” he added.
The interior minister lamented that the politics of hate that had reached their peak with May 9 had started at the PTI’s 2014 sit-in when a political party declared its politics were “jihad.”