Imran Khan says ‘undeclared martial law’ in Pakistan; files plea in Supreme Court
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s beleaguered former prime minister Imran Khan on Thursday filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the deployment of the army to aid the civilian administration in some provinces, terming it as “undeclared martial law” in the coup-prone country.
Khan moved the Supreme Court of Pakistan against Shehbaz Sharif’s government that invoked Article 245 in several provinces including Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Islamabad – the Federal Capital Territory.
Under Article 245 of Pakistan’s Constitution, the army can be called in to aid the civil administration to defend the country.
In his petition, the 70-year-old Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief urged the court to take notice of the martial law-like situation in parts of the country and the ongoing aggressive crackdown on his party.
Khan said that the arrests, investigations and trials of citizens under the Army Act 1952 were “unconstitutional and void and of no legal effect and amounts to negation of the Constitution, the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.”
“The dictated exercise of this power by the federal cabinet in the absence of objective conditions for the exercise of that power is clearly violative of the fundamental rights,” the petition said.
He said that the “dismantling of PTI through forcible quitting of party membership and office are unconstitutional and void being against Article 17 of the Constitution,” the Dawn newspaper reported.
The plea named Prime Minister Sharif, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz, ex-president Asif Ali Zardari, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and other as respondents, the report said.
The embattled politician also pleaded with the apex court to appoint a commission led by an apex court judge to probe the events surrounding his arrest on May 9 and subsequent incidents.
The petition was filed as the military court was planning to hear cases against 16 ‘miscreants’ allegedly involved in the attacks on the military installations, and Khan also raised queries about the trial by military courts.
Khan also argued in the petition that trying civilians in military courts would be synonymous with denying them the right to life, due process and fair trial, the dignity of man and equal protection of the law to the accused.
The former cricketer-turned-politician has been under pressure due to the cases filed against him and the violence committed on the day of protest by his supporters.
The latest move in the court may be an effort to assure his supporters that he was still fighting. A day earlier, Khan on Wednesday appealed to the Supreme Court judges to save the democracy in Pakistan, saying “you are our last hope.”
The powerful Army, which has ruled the coup-prone country for more than half of its 75 plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sharif has said the attackers of May 9 violence targeted the “idea and identity of Pakistan and gave the enemies of the country reasons to celebrate”.
“I don’t see the tragic incidents of May 9 as merely a protest that became violent. The designs of those who planned them were actually very sinister,” he tweeted on Thursday.
“There was a clear build-up to the shameful incidents, as the whole nation witnessed in utter disbelief and a state of shock how the lust of some people for power made them do what was never done before,” he said.
Sharif said the “tragic and heart-rending events” of May 9 were a wake-up call.
“We have to identify and expose all such people who want to destroy the foundations of Pakistan. May 9 has drawn up a dividing line between the protectors and builders of Pakistan and those who wish to weaken it,” he said.
On May 9, violent protests erupted after paramilitary Rangers arrested Khan from the Islamabad High Court (IHC) premises. His party workers vandalised a dozen military installations, including the Lahore Corps Commander’s House, the Mianwali airbase and the ISI building in Faisalabad in response to Khan’s arrest. The mob also stormed the Army headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi for the first time.
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.
Thousands of Khan’s supporters were arrested following the violence that the powerful Army described as a “dark day” in the history of the country.
Several top PTI leaders were also arrested in the wake of the unrest.
Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said on Wednesday the government was mulling a possible ban on Khan’s PTI party following the attacks by his supporters on military installations after the former prime minister’s arrest.
The Lahore police have sent names of more than 700 PTI leaders to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to impose a restriction on their foreign travel for one month.
The FIA has been requested to place their names on the Provisional National Identification List (PNIL) which temporarily bars people from travelling abroad.
Khan was ousted from power in April last year 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.