Pakistan’s powerful military sacks three key officers for failing to stop Imran Khan protesters

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Pakistan's powerful military sacks three key officers for failing to stop Imran Khan protesters
Pakistan's powerful military sacks three key officers for failing to stop Imran Khan protesters :File Photo

Pakistan’s army has sacked three key officers, including a lieutenant general, over violent attacks by Khan’s supporters to protest his arrest.

More than 100 people are being tried in military courts after violence erupted following former PM Imran Khan’s arrest last month.

At least 102 people are currently being tried in military courts in relation to the violence, Major General Ahmad Sharif Chaudhry said at a news conference in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

He gave no details regarding how many of the defendants are civilians or military officials. He also declined to name the senior officers who have been fired but said they were dismissed after they “failed to maintain the security and sanctity” of army properties during the unrest.

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According to Chaudhry, those being tried in military courts “have the right of access to civil lawyers” as well as the right of appeal.

But human rights groups have raised concerns over military trials of civilians, which they said cannot ensure a fair defence. The military tribunals have also been challenged in Pakistan’s Supreme Court.

Last month, Amnesty International 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, lack of transparency, coerced confessions and executions after grossly unfair trials”.

“Therefore, any indication that the trial of civilians could be held in military courts is incompatible with Pakistan’s obligations under international human rights law,” it said.

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Khan’s arrest on corruption charges at the Islamabad High Court on May 9 sparked deadly street violence. Thousands of his supporters fought with police and some set fire to military buildings, including an air base and the house of a general.

Pakistan's powerful military sacks three key officers for failing to stop Imran Khan protesters
Pakistan’s powerful military sacks three key officers for failing to stop Imran Khan protesters :File Photo

More than 5,000 of them were arrested although most were later released.

“We had to determine why security was breached at army installations,” Chaudhry said. “We had to find out what had gone wrong.”

He said two departmental inquiries were conducted, headed by major generals, and punishments were given according to their recommendations.

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Strict departmental action has also been taken against another 15 army officers, including major generals and brigadiers, Chaudhry said. He did not specify what action had been taken.

Chaudhry added that several relatives, including women, of senior army officers were also facing trials for allegedly being facilitators of the violence.

The army has said the arson was planned by leaders of Khan’s party, and it has named him in at least two criminal cases as abetting the violence.

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Khan, 70, a cricket hero-turned-politician, has faced a slew of cases since he was removed from power in a vote of no confidence last year, which he blames on the military’s generals, a charge the army denies.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has faced a significant crackdown since the May 9 violence.

Pakistan's powerful military sacks three key officers for failing to stop Imran Khan protesters
Pakistan’s powerful military sacks three key officers for failing to stop Imran Khan protesters :File Photo

Analysts said Khan’s detention, which ended after three days when the Supreme Court declared it illegal, was likely retaliation by Pakistan’s military for a campaign of defiance Khan has waged since being removed from office in April 2022.

Pakistan’s army holds enormous influence over the nuclear-armed country’s politics, having staged at least three successful coups leading to decades of martial law.