'No absolution' for those who orchestrated May 9 riots, says PM Shehbaz

Premier says to 'not let shadows of lies, hide light of truth'

News Desk May 09, 2024
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. PHOTO: PID/FILE

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Thursday that there could be "no absolution" for those who orchestrated the May 9 mayhem, referring to the riots that followed PTI founder Imran Khan’s arrest from the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

“There can absolutely be no soft-pedalling of what happened on May 9 and there can be no absolution for those who orchestrated, supported, and assisted the attempt to damage the foundations of our nation,” said the premier in a post on X.

He added that on this date, symbols of our national pride, and honour were attacked and the "sanctity of our sacred homeland was also assaulted".

PM Shehbaz, using the hashtag '#May9NeverAgain', said "love of our country demands nothing less".

"Let not the shadows of lies, hide the light of truth."

In a message on the eve of the first anniversary of the riots, President Asif Zardari condemned the violence, saying that the unfortunate incidents severely tarnished the country’s image, which only served the interests of Pakistan’s enemies.

He termed the mob attacks an attempt to challenge the writ of the state, undermine the rule of law, and weaken the institutions. He emphasized that those responsible for the May 9 violence should be held accountable according to the law.

The president said that peaceful demonstrations and constructive criticism were the essence of democracy, and emphasised that the Constitution enshrined the fundamental rights to assembly and expression.

Nonetheless, he underscored the importance of exercising “these rights with utmost responsibility, adhering strictly to the bounds of constitutional and legal provisions”. Any attempt to misuse “these rights to incite violence will never be tolerated”, he warned.

“The current political situation demands that all political parties work towards promoting tolerance, democratic values, and political dialogue, and provide a clear direction to the nation,” he said, urging political parties, parliament, media, and civil society to strengthen democracy by upholding rule of law.

‘Probe PTI’s 2014 sit-in too’

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif endorsed the military’s counter-suggestion for a probe into the PTI’s 2014 sit-in and subsequent events if a judicial commission is to be formed to investigate the May 9, 2023 riots.

Addressing a press conference along with Information Minister Ataullah Tarar, Asif strongly condemned the PTI protestors’ vandalism of Captain Kernal Sher Khan Shaheed’s sculpture, saying it commemorated the soldiers’ sacrifice for the nation.

Read Army wants Imran to apologise, shun politics of 'anarchy'

He denied the PTI’s claim that May 9 was a 'false flag operation', adding that the perpetrators were known to the entire nation. The defence minister claimed that all three of Imran’s sisters were “present outside the Core Commander's House during the attack”, adding that the presence of several other PTI workers was captured on camera at other attacked sites including the GHQ.

The minister lambasted Imran for targeting COAS General Asim Munir, on the one hand, saying that he was plotting his murder, and at the same time seeking talks with him.

“May 9 events hurt the nation’s pride, as well as the families of the martyrs,” said Asif, clarifying that the martyrs had no affiliation to any political party.

He criticized Imran for targeting PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif for years, then failing at governance himself, and being removed through a no-confidence motion, and also making the appointment of army chief controversial.

Information Minister Attaullah Tarar urged the judiciary to expedite the proceedings against those accused of the May 9 riots.

May 9 riots

Country-wide protests targeting sensitive state and military installations erupted following former premier Imran Khan's arrest from the Islamabad High Court (IHC) premises on May 9, 2023.

The installations attacked included the army’s General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and the corps commander's house in Lahore.

The Radio Pakistan premises in Peshawar was also targeted as protesters set fire to the main building.

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq took notice of the matter and summoned the Islamabad IGP. Later in the evening, the IHC termed Imran’s arrest from court premises in the Al-Qadir Trust case “legal”.

Justice Farooq observed that Imran’s release order would be issued if any illegality was committed in the compliance of arrest warrants.

However, a day later, the Supreme Court declared Imran’s arrest from the IHC premises ‘illegal’ and directed his immediate release.

The government responded with a mobile internet blockade and a crackdown against PTI leaders, workers, and supporters, as well as those perceived to be allied with the party's cause within the media and legal fraternity.

The events of the day reportedly left eight protesters dead, over 190 police officers injured, and hundreds arrested.

On May 10, Section 144 was imposed across the country and military deployment was ordered in an attempt to quell the riots.

Imran Khan later claimed that he was hit on the head with batons as Rangers personnel arrested him. He said that NAB's treatment toward him during custody was "alright".

When asked about the violent protests that followed his arrest on May 9, Imran asked how could he have stopped the riots, adding that he did earlier warn of a “reaction” if he was arrested.

To apologize or not

In a press conference held two days ago, the Director General of the ISPR sought a sincere and public apology from the incarcerated ex-premier for May 9 events and asked him to shun what it called “politics of anarchy and hate” to revive his political fortunes.

DG Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Ahmed Sharif dismissed the possibility of any ‘deal’ with the PTI founder, saying there won’t be any talks with “anarchists.”

He said the army was ready for the formation of a judicial commission on the events, however, he denied PTI’s 'narrative' that May 9 was a 'false flag operation'.

The DG ISPR said, “May 9 is not a hidden thing, the irrefutable evidence of happenings is also with the public.”

However, Imran refused to tender an apology for the May 9 events following the army’s demand.

"Why should the onus be on me to apologize? The apology should be directed towards me," the ousted prime minister said during a casual interaction with reporters at Adiala jail.


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