Wednesday, May 10, 2023
Web Desk

PM warns ‘state enemies’ of strict action as protests grip nation post Imran Khan arrest

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif comes down hard on PTI, calls party workers’ actions “unforgivable crimes”

Web Desk

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during his address to the nation in Islamabad, on May 10, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — YouTube/GeoNews
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during his address to the nation in Islamabad, on May 10, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — YouTube/GeoNews

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said Wednesday that strict action would be taken against "state's enemies" as he slammed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf for violence that gripped the country after PTI Chairman Imran Khan's arrest in the Al-Qadir Trust corruption case.

In his address to the nation, the prime minister came down hard on the PTI, calling the party workers’ actions “unforgivable crimes”.

“The miscreants will be dealt with iron hands. They will be punished according to the law,” the prime minister said as he urged PTI protesters to immediately stop “anti-state activities”.

He added that by staging violent protests, the party’s workers had done in a few days what the country’s enemies could not do in 75 years.

He hailed the nation for “rejecting anti-state agenda” and also praised law enforcement agencies, including the military, for showing restraint in the face of violent protests.

He also accused PTI leadership including Khan of instigating a “few hundred armed workers” to attack the Pakistan Army.

PTI workers “took patients out of ambulances and set the vehicles on fire”, the premier said, adding that the party workers proved their “anti-state tendencies” by damaging government infrastructure.

“They attacked sensitive property as if they were enemies. I have never seen such heartbreaking scenes.”

PM Shehbaz iterated that protection of the country and its ideology was his responsibility. “We will not allow anyone to conspire. We will not let their nefarious agenda succeed,” he asserted.

‘All evidence present in Al-Qadir Trust case’

The premier stressed that upholding the rule of law meant fighting the battle in a court. “Khan was arrested in connection with a corruption case. All evidence is present in the Al Qadir Trust case, which NAB (National Accountability Bureau) is conducting an inquiry into.”

He questioned how Khan had gotten the then-federal cabinet to approve the decision related to the Rs60 billion matter without sharing details with the members.

He said, however, that happiness should not be expressed over the arrest of a political worker.

‘Bitter’ political history

The premier began his address by saying the country’s political history was “very bitter”.

During the PTI’s tenure, cases were registered arbitrarily and the previous government decided who to send to jail and who to show mercy, he claimed.

“A case related to possession of 15 kilograms of heroine was registered against [incumbent Interior Minister] Rana Sanaullah. It was the darkest time in Pakistan’s history.”

The country’s development was badly affected by the PTI government’s “blind political revenge”, he continued.

PM Shehbaz said the incumbent government had sought to resolve issues related to the NAB — on whose orders Khan was arrested — and passed an amendment.

“The first beneficiary of the amendment to the NAB laws is Imran Khan,” he said.

Referring to the cases against him as well as other Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders, Shehbaz said that they faced them and appeared in courts despite reservations. “Not even one of the allegations against us has been proved.

“The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency also gave us a clean chit.”

A day earlier, PTI Chairman Khan was arrested from the Islamabad High Court (IHC) premises by Rangers personnel on the orders of the NAB. An accountability court granted the anti-graft watchdog Khan’s physical remand for eight days today.

Following the arrest, violent protests broke out across the country, which have continued for the second day today.

The violence has claimed at least four lives in Peshawar with multiple injuries, including to officials, reported from across the country. The government has also said PTI workers attacked important state buildings and damaged private and public vehicles.

The military has been called in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the federal capital to deal with the protests.

Meanwhile, Sindh has imposed Section 144 to contain protests staged by the former ruling party workers and supporters.