Thursday May 23, 2024

May 9 attacks: Are supreme commander, armed forces on the same page?

The President believes that the May 9 attacks were the reaction of the arrest and manhandling of Imran Khan

By Ansar Abbasi
May 18, 2023
President Arif Alvi meets COAS General Asim Munir at the Presidents House in Islamabad. — AFP/File
President Arif Alvi meets COAS General Asim Munir at the President's House in Islamabad. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Where does President Dr Arif Ali and the Supreme Commander of the Pakistan armed forces stand in a situation where the party – PTI - he belonged to is found attacking defence installations, buildings, symbols and memorials?

Following the May 9 attacks by the PTI protesters on the building and symbols of Pakistan's armed forces, the President appeared more concerned about Imran Khan than what the PTI did to Pakistan Army on what is now declared as “Black Day”. His response was different from what the Pakistan Army and its chief have said.

The President believes that the May 9 attacks were the reaction to the arrest and manhandling of Imran Khan whereas the Pakistan Army as well as the National Security Committee see the attacks as pre-planned.

For two days, the President kept mum and spoke on 11th May. In a tweet, the President said, “I am alarmed, shocked & deeply disturbed over the current situation in the country arising out of the arrest & manhandling of the former PM Imran Khan. The loss of human lives as an aftermath is heart-wrenching, regrettable, unfortunate & highly condemnable. Protest is a constitutional right of every citizen of Pakistan but should always remain within the bounds of the law. The way some miscreants have damaged public property, particularly government and military buildings, is condemnable. We must rethink & look for political solutions, rather than coercion & arrests. I have conveyed my concerns to the political & military leadership & am hopeful that the situation can improve. I strongly appeal to all citizens of the country to remain peaceful.” Alvi, who is alleged by the ruling coalition and many in the media of undermining the office of the President for acting like a PTI die-heart supporter, first official response on May 9 was clearly more sympathetic towards Imran Khan. He did not mention PTI even once for the attacks its protesters had carried out against the Pakistan Army. Instead, he said what happened was the reaction to how Imran Khan was mishandled.

The same day, he wrote a letter to the prime minister to draw the latter’s attention towards the arrest of Imran Khan on May 9 and said that he and the people of Pakistan were shocked to see the video images of the incident which reflect manhandling of a former prime minister (Imran Khan) who is a popular leader and head of a political party “substantially supported” by the people of Pakistan.

Alvi in the letter said that the manner in which Imran Khan was arrested had tarnished the image of Pakistan in the international community. He said that the arrest of IK led to attacks by mobs on public assets including the building of the Armed Forces. Alvi, however, did not comment on how the PTI attacks on defence installations and buildings tarnished the image of Pakistan, hurt the institutions of armed forces and made our enemy happy.

Alvi conveyed to the prime minister that he was distressed over the damage to public assets and unlawful actions of miscreants but did not seek stern action against them. Instead, he urged the prime minister, “Please, do ensure that the constitutional rights of Mr Imran Khan are not violated and his life is fully secured.”

On Wednesday, the President wrote an article for the print media. Ignoring that the federal and provincial governments and armed forces view that the May 9 attack was pre-planned, he reflected on the country’s long history of labelling parties and leaders as traitors and anti-state.

Discussing different examples of the past, he said that no political party today has ever been anti-Pakistan or that it comprises traitors. “Excesses have been committed by all during our history, out of frustrations including during the MRD. When all avenues are closed, anger in all its dimensions is the only route left which then colours the national landscape into a lethal red.”

President urged all the stakeholders to ‘Think Again’. He said that he personally knew there are many on all sides of the spectrum, including in the establishment, but everyday events and hot exchanges between them fog their perception into dangerous arguments, and even unrealistic questions are floated like, ‘Are you with Pakistan or against Pakistan?’

He concluded by expressing his hope that better sense will prevail and with the spirit of forgiveness (dar-guzar) we will succeed in sorting out our disputes.

When contacted by The News, Press Secretary to Presidency said President Arif Alvi has already condemned the miscreants attack on government properties and military buildings in his tweet on May 11, 2023.