Federal Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah at a press conference in Islamabad has shown videos of the attacks against government and military installations in the country on May 9 immediately after Imran Khan was arrested.
The minister said only a few thousand people participated in the demonstrations against Khan’s arrest but these ’ trained gangs’ attacked properties instead of holding peaceful protests. They will be identified and brought to justice, the minister announced.
He criticized the judiciary for giving blanket bail to Imran Khan but denied the claims that the government and the Supreme Court were headed for a faceoff.
The interior minister also said banning the PTI was the only option.
Sanaullah said that setting fire to defense buildings was not a tradition of Pakistani politics. In the past when PPP and PMLN were engaged in bitter political disputes, no one ever attacked the homes of each other, he said.
“What is politics in burning down the memorials of martyrs,” he questioned.
He said PTI protesters not only set fire to the defense buildings and a Radio Pakistan building but also attacked a cattle market in Peshawar where they first took away the animals and then burnt down the market.
Few thousand participants
Sanaullah then provided details of the protests and attacks, saying that not a large number of people turned up at the PTI protests, but those participating in the demonstrations looted shops and public properties.
Sanaullah said on May 9 demonstrations were held at 12 places in the federal capital and up to 700 people participated in these protests.
He said only between 15,000 and 1800 people protested on May 9 at 221 locations in Punjab which has a population of 115 million.
On the same day, demonstrations were held at 126 places in KP and up to 22,000 protesters participated.
On May 11, protests were held at 4 places in the federal capital, 12 places in Punjab and 39 places in KP. There were about 7-8 thousand people in these demonstrations, he said.
He said in the country of 230 million people only around 45,000 people came out to protest against Khan’s arrest.
He said PTI workers have been trained to make petrol bombs and slingshots. The same model of petrol bombs and slingshots was seen in Punjab and KP, he said adding that these slingshots caused severe injured.
Shops, markets, and armory stores were looted and there were attempts to rob banks, he said.
Sanaullah said that Imran Khan was arrested in a case that involved plunder of the national exchequer because Rs60 billion of property tycoon Malik Riaz was seized in the UK and the money was to be returned to the Pakistani exchequer but Imran Khan returned it to the property tycoon in exchange for Rs7 billion worth of land.
The interior minister then criticized the chief justice of Pakistan for saying that he was pleased to see Imran Khan in his court. The CJP also wished him good luck when Khan was leaving, he said.
Consequently, the Islamabad High Court next day granted bail to Imran Khan not only in cases that have already been registered but also in the case that are yet to be registered, said Sanaullah.
The interior minister said that miscreants who attack state and private properties will be identified from videos and other sources and will be taken to tasks.
Sanaullah said that although Pakistan suffered damages, the events of this week had also exposed the ‘fitna’.
The nation should identify this fitna and reject him through the vote, he said.
Video and audio clips
The interior minister then played audio clips containing alleged conversations between PTI leaders. Some of the clips were circulated on social media two days ago.
The minister also played video clips showing attackers rampaging through the Corop Commander House in Lahore and other buildings. Some of the buildings were showed engulfed in flame.
Sanaullah also played clips from Indian TV channels that said Imran Khan had been ‘abducted’ by Pakistani security forces.
Is the government helpless
In response to a question about why the government appeared “helpless’ in the face of PTI agitation, the minister said that no political protest was held anywhere in the country. On the contrary, there were attacks and attempt to loot everything.
Sanaullah said if the government had used force journalists might have said it had committed ‘aggression’.
He said if the government had not granted bail to Imran Khan, the fitna might have already been put back into the bottle.
Faceoff between govt and SC
Sanaullah rejected the notion that the government and the judiciary were headed for a faceoff as the PMD –which is part of the ruling alliance – was going to stage a sit-in at the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday when the apex court will be hearing a case about the election in Punjab.
He said if the top court was going to hold the prime minister and the cabinet in contempt, it better do so. The government will see, he said.
Banning PTI only option
Sanaullah said only miscreants and gangs were supporting Imran Khan, not the entire nation.
He said Imran Khan had planned the attacks for over a year and if such gangs were welcomed in this way [as the court had done] a tradition of forming militant gangs began in the country, and no one will form political parties and follow a path of serving people.
Sanaullah said banning the PTI was the only option – ess jamaat ky oper ban ky elawah aur koi hal nahi banta.
He denied the impression that PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had opposed such a move. Bilawal has only said that he did not favour the policy of banning political parties, but if Khan did not change his behavior he will be forced to support such a ban.
He said the situation was completely under government control but gangs comprising a handful of people attacked places such as Radio Pakistan and a cattle market where no one had thought of deploying security troops. But in contrast to May 9 and 10, the situation was completely under government control by May 12, he said.