Pakistan Army vows action on mobs attacking property following Imran Khan’s arrest

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Pakistan’s army said “restraint will no longer be exercised on groups attacking military installations,” vowing to take legal action against those who damaged property after former premier Imran Khan’s dramatic arrest last week.

“The Armed Forces are well aware of the planners, instigators, abettors, and perpetrators of these attacks and attempts to create distortions in this regard are absolutely futile,” the military said in a statement late on Monday without naming anyone.

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“Those involved in these heinous crimes against the military installations and personal/equipment will be brought to justice through trials under relevant laws of Pakistan including Pakistan Army Act and Official Secret Act.”

The military’s sharp reaction marks another escalation in an ongoing showdown between Pakistan’s most powerful institution and Khan, who was arrested by an anti-graft agency and later released by the Supreme Court. His detention sparked widespread anger among his supporters and some groups breached the military headquarters while others set fire to a military commander’s official residence.

At least eight people were killed and scores more arrested, including close aides and political associates of Khan.

The increasingly public defiance against the military signals a shift in attitudes in Pakistan which has been directly ruled by the army for almost half of its history since its creation in 1947. Most prime ministers have depended on the institution’s support to stay in power, including Khan himself, but his ties worsened during his time in power.

Khan attempted to control military promotions, opposing the army chief at the time in an incident that sowed the seeds for his ouster in April last year. He accused the army of conspiring with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the US to oust him, which all three denied. But his campaign to turn public opinion against the military continued.

No direct reference was made to Khan in Monday’s statement but in the days leading to his arrest by paramilitary troops, the army criticized him for accusing the institution of being behind at least two assassination attempts, including a shooting incident in November. The military has consistently denied the allegations.
Khan’s party denied its supporters vandalized army property.

“We also believe that those involved in terrorism against the state must be punished but it is very important that they should be correctly identified,” Shafqat Mahmood, a senior leader in Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party said by phone. “There were people in the crowd who were not our supporters. Clearly they were outsiders.”

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