ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said on Tuesday that former prime minister Imran Khan will be tried in a military court for attacks on army installations during violent protests that erupted in the South Asian country this month following his arrest in a graft case.
Khan's arrest by paramilitary troops in Islamabad on May 9 was followed by days of civil unrest, with government buildings set alight, military installations damaged and around 10 people killed, before the Supreme Court declared the arrest illegal.
The protesters stormed the residence of the Lahore corps commander and other military installations, prompting a strong reaction from the civilian and military leadership. Thousands of Khan supporters have since been arrested in a crackdown, while dozens of suspects have been handed over to the military for trial under the Army Act.
In an interview on Tuesday night, the Pakistani interior minister said the government had "documented" evidence of the former prime minister's involvement in the violence that erupted after his arrest.
"He (Khan) had finalized all this that who will do what 'when I will be arrested,' where it has to be done, what the strategy will be... this was all pre-planned," Sanaullah told Pakistan's Dawn news channel.
"Yes, absolutely," he replied, when asked if the ex-premier will be tried by a military court. "The program he made to target military installations and then had it executed, this is definitely a military court case as per my understanding."
Sanaullah said the argument by Khan's party that he was not involved in the violence as he was behind bars when the violence erupted was "false."
"He was the one behind all this," the minister said. "This slogan they raised that 'Imran Khan is our red line.' And the planning and preparation in this regard that was all [based] on Imran Khan's instigation. He had all this done. He himself is the architect of all this unrest."
Khan, who was ousted from power last year, has bitterly opposed the government of PM Shehbaz Sharif, campaigning for early nationwide elections. The ex-premier has also accused the country's powerful military of siding with his political opponents to topple him, a move he says was also backed by the United States. All three have denied the allegation.
However, the ex-premier, seemingly under pressure after the massive crackdown on his party and supporters, has lately offered to hold talks with the powers that be.
But PM Sharif on Tuesday turned down the offer, saying “anarchists and arsonists” who attacked symbols of the state did not qualify for dialogue.