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Tuesday June 18, 2024

Situationer: Imran condemned May 9 vandalism, belatedly and indirectly

From the start, Imran Khan has been distancing himself from the May 9 events

By Zebunnisa Burki
May 26, 2023
Former prime minister Imran Khan speaks during an interview at his residence in Lahore on March 15, 2023. — AFP
Former prime minister Imran Khan speaks during an interview at his residence in Lahore on March 15, 2023. — AFP

KARACHI: It took PTI Chairman Imran Khan ten days after the May 9 attacks on army and civilian infrastructure and buildings to condemn what all had transpired on the day. That too, say critics, is not an unequivocal condemnation and is muted at best.

From the start, Imran Khan has been distancing himself from the May 9 events, saying he was in jail on the day. In fact, it had been noted that the PTI chairman had not even openly condemned the attacks till May 19 when at his first press conference following his arrest he had said -- on being asked if he condemned the attack on the Corps Commander House in Lahore -- that: “Who is not condemning the burning of the Lahore Corps Commander House? Tell me one person in Pakistan who is not doing it.”

During the same press talk, the former prime minister had also said: “The burning of that old building, it is being blamed on us on purpose […] In 27 years, have I ever said to turn to burning and rioting? I have always talked about peaceful protests within the law and the constitution.”

His critics, however, did not see the condemnation as enough. In particular, the federal government rejected Imran’s ‘condemnation’ of the May 9 attacks, saying what was required was an admission of guilt and the acknowledgment that he was the mastermind behind the events of the day.

Importantly, Imran’s muted condemnation had come a day after President Arif Alvi -- a PTI stalwart and also someone seen as close and valuable to both party and chairman -- had told Geo’s Hamid Mir that Imran Khan should “openly condemn” the May 9 events. The president had also called for taking action against those involved in the events.Clarifying the controversy around his condemnation, on May 20 Imran said that “it was propaganda that I did not condemn the May 9 violence”. He also told his supporters in an address online that he had informed the CJP that he would never allow his supporters to stage anything other than a peaceful protest: “If a photograph emerges of any PTI worker breaking the law or setting things on fire, tell us. We will ask our workers to appear before the court and face punishment.”

Till May 19, it had been difficult to get the PTI chairman to condemn the May 9 attacks without ifs, buts and conditions. On May 18, the former PM had tweeted: “”PTI has always been a peaceful [and] democratic party. Numerous examples I shared where we showed restraint and chose a peaceful solution to avoid confrontation even if it meant a setback for me or the party. I ask the authorities to conduct a transparent investigation of any attack that happened on govt buildings; it is my belief that this is all scripted to frame PTI....”

On May 15, he had said: “We have ample amount of evidence to present to any independent inquiry that the arson and in some places shootings were done by agencies men who wanted to cause mayhem and blame it on PTI so the current crackdown would be justified.”

As all tiers of the PTI leadership continue jumping ship, while openly condemning the May 9 events, Imran Khan’s restrained criticism of the attacks on military infrastructure has led to questions.

It may be remembered that right after May 9, the PTI leadership too had reiterated that it did not stand for violence, but had not openly condemned the acts of violence, vandalism and arson. In fact, in two different interviews with Geo News a day after May 9, both Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Asad Umar had stopped short of unconditionally condemning the attacks -- both instead implying it was a conspiracy against the PTI.

Meanwhile, yesterday (May 25) the PTI remembered what it says was a “Black Day” in its history: May 25, 2022. The official PTI Twitter account tweeted: 25th May, 2022: A tale of brutality & misuse of power. The day Pakistan’s imported regime violated all human rights.”