In a first, 16 activists of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, including a former lawmaker, were handed over to the military authorities on Thursday for their trial under the stringent Army Act and the Official Secrets Act for allegedly torching the Lahore Corps Commander’s House, also known as Jinnah House.
On May 9, violent protests erupted after paramilitary Rangers arrested IImran Khan from the Islamabad High Court 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 Imran Khan’s arrest. The mob also barged the Army headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi for the first time.
Since the widespread violence, the government has cracked down on Khan’s supporters, arresting thousands of people and threatening trials before military courts.
“On the orders of the anti-terrorism court, the camp jail Lahore superintendent on Thursday handed over 16 prime suspects including former lawmaker Mian Akram Usman of attack on the Corps Commander Lahore House known as Jinnah House to a military commanding officer,” a Punjab government official told PTI.
He said over 2,000 people, mostly workers of Imran Khan’s party, have been arrested in connection with the attack on the Corps Commander’s house, however, the role of these 16 have been established for vandalizing and torching the residence.
Imran Khan has claimed that 10,000 workers of his party have been arrested across the country for allegedly attacking military installations and state buildings on May 9.
The military said only those involved in attacking the military installations will be tried under the Pakistan Army Act and the Official Secrets Act.
“The commanding officer informed the ATC that the 16 suspects in question by committing the offences have become the subject to the Pakistan Army Act 1952 and exclusively liable to be investigated and tried by the military authorities in court martial,” the official said.
The Amnesty International has strongly opposed the decision of trying civilians in military courts.
In a statement, the rights body said it has documented a catalogue of human rights violations stemming from trying civilians in military courts in Pakistan, including flagrant disregard for due process, a lack of transparency and coerced confessions.
It has called upon authorities to immediately reverse the handing over of civilians to the military for a trial and stressed that civilians should only be prosecuted in a civilian court using ordinary criminal laws commensurate with the offence.
Khan has also strongly condemned court martial of civilians and termed it illegal and against the constitution.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)